TEACCH Tip#9 – Increasing Engagement Using Special Interests
Many children with autism have certain toys or characters that they enjoy. They may play with the same toys for a long period of time, or watch the same movies or TV shows over and over again. This brings them joy and can be a comfort at times. However, there are many things we do during the day that don’t necessarily involve those toys or characters, like chores or schoolwork.
Using the child’s special interests can increase engagement in activities that may not be engaging on their own. For example, if your child or student loves princesses, try having them pretend to be Cinderella when sweeping the floor. If the child loves trains, put a train in each room they need to tidy up for them to collect. Try writing math word problems that involve their favorite characters. This is an opportunity to be creative, increase engagement, and hopefully bring some smiles to the room!
- Start by incorporating interests in an activity that is a challenge for your student/child. For example, if your child/student struggles with math, incorporate a special interest in their math lessons for the day.
- If you find that the inclusion of the child’s special interest is taking their attention away from the task, try embedding the interest further into the task. For example, if the child is working on answering questions about a story, try writing a story about Paw Patrol, rather than by putting a Paw Patrol sticker on an unrelated story.
- The goal is to help your child/student learn that engaging in and completing tasks can be fun! This is a bit different than rewarding your child/student after they finished an activity. Instead, you are increasing enjoyment of actually doing the activity. However, you can also use reward for finishing an activity. For example, your Cinderella-loving child/student can watch a Cinderella video clip after finishing sweeping.