A common concern most parents have is for their child to sit and eat at the table. Since eating isn’t a favorite for most children with autism, sitting at the table won’t be either. The first thing that needs to be done is to make the table time fun! Have the child do his/her preferred activities at the table. The child will want to grab the item and move it away from the table. Give clear instructions that the item stays at the table and that if he/she wants to play with it, it’s at the table.
Pictured is a little boy I’ve been working with for about 2 months. I have paired myself as a reinforcer and have shown him new toys. Our sessions began playing on the floor and now we have progressed to playing at the table. Puzzles are his favorite! So we do lots of puzzles and I let him play with it over and over, he does each puzzle 3 or 4 times.
I don’t give any instructions related to the task (ex, where’s the cat? what color is this? what letter?) or have him ask for items. Since I know he loves puzzles, I only hold up 2 puzzles for him to make a choice and label “Puzzle” over and over. I want him to like being at the table and if I upset him, chances are he’s not going to want to return to the table. The only instruction I give is for him to “sit down” if he wants to do the activity. He is allowed to get up and walk around if he needs to, but the activity stays at the table and will be available on his return.
At my last session, when I arrived at their house, he was sitting at the table ready for me with a big smile on his face as I walked through the door.
* Future posts to come on table time and the steps I use to prepare him for foods. *