Motivate and Wait Play Style Part 2

Motivate and Wait describes a play style that focuses on motivating a child with autism and using that motivation to create opportunity for communication. Developmental play therapy is effective in treating autism because it presents the person as the central motivation for the child. This interaction driven motivation helps replicate the natural internal drive to communicate with others that can be lacking in children on the autism spectrum.

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Play Therapy 101 -- Section 1

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Motivate and Wait Play Style (cont.)

  • Motivating your child. The motivation phase is important, a person has to be central to that motivation. Think of it as being an entertainer for your child. Tickle games, piggy back rides, drawing, blowing bubbles or reading a book are all examples of common motivating activities we can provide. Think of things that you do for or with your child that they get a kick out of and start there. The motivation you provide will depend on your child’s preferences. In the process of figuring out your child’s motivations, be open to everything, including their exclusive and repetitious behaviors. It’s easy for our kids to become motivated by objects, computer games or cartoons. People, on the other hand, present a challenge. This is why you have to be the central factor in your child’s play experience. Without you things just aren’t as fun! Kids are kids and their primary focus in life is to have a good time, so if you’re a good time they will want to interact with you more.

Your playtime with your child is designed to make YOU the most attractive toy in the room.

  • Waiting creates opportunity for your child. Once you see that you have your child motivated (looking, laughing, etc) all you have to do is a leave a pause in the action. This is the “wait” phase of our play style. It’s in this space that your child will communicate with you to continue what you were doing (e.g. tickles, rides, drawing etc). At first the desire to continue may just be indicated by more meaningful eye contact, simple gestures (e.g. taking you by the hand), sounds or language. Sometimes your child won’t do anything at all. That’s okay. In fact, you should be waiting long enough that your child leaves the interaction at times.

The whole idea behind this play style is to give our kids ripe opportunities to spontaneously use social communication. It is up to them to take advantage of those opportunities!

  • In fact that’s the whole point, that they work the “initiating” circuit in their brain. No cues, no prompts, no demands, only this: I motivate you with human interaction and then leave it up to you to figure out how to keep it going. It’s through my response to their initiation that a child develops a sense of value in social communication. For example, I become a “tickle monster” for a child, I chase them and tickle them, they laugh and run away looking back. I see the child is motivated so I stop and WAIT. In that moment I am engaging the child’s ability to problem solve on a social level. “How do I get this guy to chase me again? That’s fun!!” I am also creating social value, helping this child cultivate an internal social desire that will drive their development. “This guy is fun, predictable, consistent, accepting, loving, I want to play more!” That is what I want a child to be thinking when they are playing with me.

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