We know that it is in everyday activities where young children take most of their learning. Because of this, everyday interactions with parents and carers are essential to teaching young children about themselves, the world and how they relate to it.
However, for young children with autism, learning is more challenging. Often, children with autism have very different interests and sensory preferences to their peers. This means their parents may need to approach their education differently.
Tamara Gunasekera, a Speech Pathologist who works with young children with autism, says, “Parents can find it challenging to create and sustain back-and-forth interactions with children with autism, and those interactions are necessary for their children to learn, including understanding and using communication. This can lead to a pattern of miscommunication between parents and children. For example, we often see a parent trying to engage their child in an activity the child is not interested in, so the child is either not engaging with them or more focused on how to get out of the situation.”
So how can parents break this pattern? Tamara says it is all about taking a step back and letting the child lead.
“Focus on creating a positive interaction first. Start at the stage your child is ready for, rather than where they should be. And remember that you are the person who knows your child best, and the person they will learn from the most.”
As one of the facilitators of the More Than Words program, Tamara works together with parents and carers to support them with creating an environment where these positive interactions can flourish.
More Than Words is an online group program created specifically for parents and carers of children with autism who are 0-5 years old. It is an internationally recognised program first developed by the Hanen Centre in Canada.
Tamara says, “More Than Words supports parents in learning the foundations of building interactions with children. It sets them up for supporting their children’s learning in a range of settings, both within and beyond the program.”
Ultimately, the program enables children with autism to connect and learn in the way any child would – by helping the way their parents connect to them.
“We learn from watching others and finding out what happens,” says Tamara. “The more opportunities children have to interact and learn from others, the more they can develop.”
You can learn more about More Than Words and sign up for our next program here.