When you think about concepts you can teach your child with autism at home, what is the first thing that comes to mind? For many families and teachers, the answer is “colors.” There are a lot of reasons for this. Colors, while abstract, are a fairly concrete concept. They are a staple of many daycare and preschool curriculums. They are ever present across early childhood classrooms everywhere. And, colors are easy to find everywhere around us. Your child’s toy collection probably presents lots of natural opportunities to work on teaching colors.
But colors aren’t the only concept you can easily teach your child at home. In this article, we’ll discuss 5 other concepts you may not have thought about yet. After reading, you’ll be able to add these to your toolbox of home teaching skills.
1. Sizes. The most important thing to keep in mind when teaching sizes is that size is relative! A mountain will always be big and a grain of rice will always be small. But for the most part, the size you label something will change based on context. That is OK! Don’t let it deter you from labeling sizes often for your child. In addition to big and small or large and little, show how sizes compare with more than two items. Practice ordering objects in order of size.
2. Prepositions. Some common prepositions you can practice with your child are: over, under, in, out, inside, outside, on top, beside, next to, in front, behind, and off. Generally, it’s best to start with prepositions related to location. That way you can demonstrate what you mean with toys and experiences. For example, playing with water and cups at bath time is a great way to teach your child “in” and “out.”
3. Texture and weight. An easy place to start with concepts about how things feel is teaching “heavy” and “light.” These are simple to label in terms of your child’s own experience. Let them try to lift something that is a little too heavy for them, and use the word “heavy” to explain why it’s hard. Understanding “heavy” might come before “light.” It also may be easier to understand than texture concepts like “rough” and “smooth.” After you find a word like “heavy” that your child understands, you can start introducing other texture and weight words and concepts.
4. Time (sequencing). Time may seem too abstract to teach your young child, but it’s never to early to introduce! The best way to start teaching time is with the sequence of events. For example, take the time to explain to your child what activities will happen today, and in what order. Start using words like “before” and “after” to describe events as they happen, and talk about them later. The more you explain your daily schedule in simple ways, the more you are teaching the concept of time.
5. Symbols. Has your child ever been fascinated by an excavator or a bulldozer while you were driving? Do you have any books with pictures of excavators and bulldozers at home? Use opportunities like this to demonstrate the relationship between pictures and real world items to your child. Gradually, this is how you teach the concept of symbols. Drawing pictures that represent your child’s favorite items at home is another great way to teach this skill. Learning the concept of symbols is a good first step to learning about letters and numbers.
Courtney Gutierrez, M.Ed., BCBA, LBA Courtney is a behavior analyst, educator, and writer in the Pacific Northwest. She has over fifteen years of experience in the field of autism services, and over ten years of master’s level experience in classroom teaching and ABA therapy. Her areas of expertise include infant and toddler development, parent coaching, ABA clinical leadership and training, P-12 special education, and case consultation for children and young adults with autism and other special needs. Courtney lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.