How to use Attention Autism to develop language and communication


Now you’ve read Attention Autism (part one), you are familiar with the concept of ‘bucket time’ and the benefits it has to offer your child. It’s time to explore all the different stages. In sessions, it can be noisy and with so much to take in, you may want something to refer to. If you’re in need of a helping hand or memory jogger for stage two, read on…

Knowing what stage your child is working at is vital. Every stage has different aims to develop and enhance functional communication. So being familiar with your child’s goals ensures you can continue to practise at home. If you’re unsure of their goals, please ask your Speech and Language Therapist.

With all speech, language and communication goals, the aim is always to generalise skills from therapy settings to home and nursery or school life. This generalisation period will take time. Please try to stick with the plan. You will experience the benefits for your child, and it’ll make family life a little easier.

You may remember that Autistic children thrive on visuals. Let’s use their strengths to support their communication needs. It is a good idea at the start of the activity to have a visual for what’s happening now and what will happen next. If you’re anything like me, you’ll grab a pen and paper or a whiteboard and whiteboard pen, and will doodle away! You don’t need fancy photos.

On the left is a bag with Now written above it and Bag below. On the right are three children playing with Net written above and Play written below.

The attention builder

Stage two of the Attention Autism approach is called “the attention builder”. The clue is in the name, your child’s goal is to keep focused on the activity for a longer period. The duration will be different for every child, but it’s useful to time their attention, so you can report progress back to your therapist.

Parents are often worried about doing something wrong. If it all goes a bit pear-shaped or not as you expected, don’t panic! This is the time to ask yourself, did my child have fun? Did they engage in the activity? It’s very helpful to reflect on the experience. What could you do that would make the activity easier for your child to access? (For example, did you set up the activity before your child entered the room? This would allow for a smoother session, so that waiting time was minimal.)

Three ideas for stage two activities

There are so many ideas out there, which at times can feel overwhelming. I’m always looking for the easiest options to present to you to reduce overwhelm and allow it to feel manageable.

Remember this is about having fun. Your child’s communication will benefit from you relaxing and having this structured approach.

Here are our three top ideas for stage two attention Autism activities:

1. Flour castles

You’ll need:

  • Container, cup or glass
  • Flour
  • Sheet (for the table/floor) (optional)

This is a fun-filled activity to try. But it can get a little messy!

Fill a small glass, cup or container with flour and flip the cup over to build flour castles. It’s great to engage your child especially with the “Splat” at the end.

2. Paint balls

Another activity which is a little bit cleaner is ‘Paint balls’.

You’ll need:

  • Tray, container
  • Paint
  • Rubber balls or marbles
  • Paper (optional)

First dip the marbles into the paint, then drop into the container and roll it around to make a pattern. You could always make a pattern on some paper.

I love to use everyday objects in therapy, so when I came across this next idea, it was added to the list. It’s simple, effective, not to mention clean!

3. Skittles

You’ll need:

  • A packet of skittles
  • Warm water
  • Plate

You’ll need to create a circle of skittles around the edge of the plate. Then add small amounts of warm water to the plate and watch the rainbow of colours appear.

These activities offer a sequence to build and sustain your child’s attention. Remember the key is to have fun. Create meaningful interactions that your child cannot miss! If they can learn to hold their attention, they can learn to use functional skills.

Now you’ve got ideas for stage two activities. Go ahead and carry them out.

Have fun!

If you need speech, language or communication support or advice, I am always here to help.

Find a speech and language therapist for your child in London. Are you concerned about your child’s speech, feeding or communication skills and don’t know where to turn? Please contact me and we can discuss how I can help you or visit my services page.


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