We receive many queries from parents that pertain to the fixation on items and topics. Parents are usually worried that their child is not able to play like other children do. Although we understand that parents want their children to interact socially with other children, we also understand and respect the differences in interests. Our children might not find the usual toys interesting, but they can speak for hours about traffic lights and stop signs. How do we change what our children like to more “normal” items and interests? We don’t. No one wants to be told what they should like and what not to look at or like.
At AIMS Global we respect what our children like and are interested in. We give them access to these items – whether it is going down in a lift one too many times or counting all the stop signs on our way to the park. The trick for us is to utilize these interests within a lesson for them, expanding on their interests and teaching them new concepts through it.
I will give some practical examples here. There was a child that we worked with that loved the workings of machines – any machine, how it works, its function and who operates these machines. It started as a quite “narrow” interests, by only liking washing machines and blenders. Let’s call our child *Billy. He was 8 years old when he developed this keen interest and we made a point of exploring these machines with him, but we delved deep into the working of these machines – how its made in detail, teaching him more language and ways to express why he likes the machines. We taught almost all the concepts we had to cover through the making of machines. We exposed him to more machines and took him on outings to see how lawnmowers work, for example. We basically built a lesson plan around his interests and we were able to include academic targets, cognitive targets, executive functioning skills and so much more. The best part of it all was that Billy was engaged, happy and motivated. He wanted to learn more, speak more about his interests and how it expanded. He started researching interesting facts about these topics and could explain to his friends at school the reason he liked speaking about it.
Although you might feel that this is a good start, but you don’t want your child to be the one speaking about machines alone, I will comfort you by telling you the following: if your child feels that his interests are being respected and spoken about, he will learn to speak about more topics in a natural way. The most important feeling any human can feel is being comfortable just being themselves. If our children know that we don’t stop them from self-stimulatory behaviors, we encourage them to express how they are feeling. We can worry about being “socially acceptable” later in life – there is plenty of time to do this. We want our children to be able to tell us why they like items, how it makes them feel and then to ask questions to learn more about these incredible interests they might have.
I encourage you today to take a few moments to really understand your child’s interests and don’t see this as a fixation. Try and look at these items the way your child does. When you show your child that you have nothing but the utmost respect for their needs and wants, they will feel more comfortable to open up and let you guide them in expanding these interests.
As all our children are very different in age and developmental levels, we need to ensure that we keep these activities fun and motivating. If your child is pre-verbal, we don’t want to focus on too much expressive speech. We can expand their interests by including art and craft activities or physical movement games.
Let one of our directors help you today to work on expanding your child’s interests. We are offering a 30 minute Skype session for FREE with Karla Pretorius for parents. Click here to schedule a meeting with Karla and go over your child’s interests and how we can ensure that we expand on this in a fun and functional manner!
Speak to you soon!