Where would you start working with a low functioning 3-5 year old
nonverbal autistic child that you only have time in your caseload to see 60
minutes a week? Could you please provide specifics?
I would start by playing NEAR the child, providing him or her with similar play items. I like to use Greenspan's ''Floortime'' activities. Basically, get into the child's world. Don't talk to him or her directly, just talk in parallel. Describe what YOU are doing with play items or toys-- or just play, saying nothing. Set up dolls, blocks, cars in garages made of blocks, sand play anything that is physical, interesting and holds the attention of the child for a few minutes. Don't enter their play for a long time. Just watch them covertly while you play. Try to enter their play very gently by touching something they have touched, by putting your toy car next to their blocks, etc. See if it is tolerated. If so, do it again the next time. Most of their play will be the same each time. Look for the patterns. See if they are imitating you in any way. Jot notes down each time it is over, so you can read it later and try to find trends or interests. See if you can find out their ways of ''knowing.'' After about 6-8 sessions in which you truly do not intrude, the child will begin to trust you to join his or her play. It is a very powerful technique!
Dr. Judy K. Montgomery has been a speech language pathologist in schools, a director of grant for children who use AAC, a school principal and is currently a professor of special education and literacy at Chapman University in southern California. She was the president of ASHA in 1995.