There are still ways to build and keep relationships while we are at a distance – Being playful is a great way to start!
I have been asked several times this week for ideas for connecting with one another via online conferencing due to social distancing, isolation and just plain distance between us due to the Corona Virus. Grandparents, parents, relatives, friends, family, therapists, and other professionals are all looking for ways to engage and connect with each other.
Achieving what is called “social reciprocity” or the social back and forth is tough enough when someone has autism but especially challenging via the internet. I have put together some ideas for gaining that social reciprocity that helps us feel connected.
Set the stage for success first. Consider your own regulation. Are you calm, collected, and ready to engage flexibly? If not, consider some deep breathing, stretching, or something that calms you prior the call.
Next consider the environment you are showing the receiver. If you sit in your cluttered kitchen or bedroom, the person on the other side may be distracted and less able to engage with you. If you are bouncing around with your computer on your lap, that may be distracting – consider setting it somewhere solid so you can try to forget about it and both focus on engaging.
If you have a greeting you always use when you see each other live, try to figure out a way to recreate that same greeting. With one student the other day, I started the call as if they were walking into the front door of my office, walking with the computer and setting it down where we usually sit. With another student, I started by showing them my white board on the wall with our “agenda for the day” just like I do when they come in. And with a few students, I always start with a round of a “fill in the blank letters” game to get us rolling – which I have done successfully this week for online sessions.
- Do not try to entertain. You will need each of you to have a role or it won’t work.
- Give time frames for your online time together: tell them when you are starting and when you are ending.
- Be predictable, especially at first. Start the same way, end the same way.
- Use visuals: send a simple agenda ahead fo time if possible, write things down and show them on the camera, play games with visual elements or be creative to add them to activities that don’t traditionally have them
- Use the “share screen” feature to share online games, videos, choices, visuals, etc.
Online Activity Ideas
Here are a few ideas to play with online with one another. Some will work for children who are minimally verbal and some will not. Some will work for children who can read and others will not. Experiment and if it doesn’t work – keep trying! Sometimes persistence is all that is needed for success.
- Fill in the blank letter games where you think of a phrase, indicate the blank spaces and the other guesses the letters until they can guess the word or phrase (like Wheel of Fortune!)
- Choose a tune together or take turns in choosing tunes and listen together – or dance together
- Play Uno or similar online together (google the game you or child like)
- Play Charades – create a visual list together first to then choose from so it is a little easier to figure out
- Scan a picture and play iSpy together
- Play the “add on game” (e.g., “Going on a camping trip and I’m going to bring…” – then go through the alphabet for items)
- Find and tell each other jokes or riddles
- Play either peek-a-boo or a hide and pop game where they close their eyes and you hide then pop out when they say they are ready (then reverse)
- Read a story that they hold up for you to read (the book is in their hands)
- Dress a bear or doll – give the child choices of which item next (visually presented)
- Build something with the child directing to create then knock them down
- Each have a supply of hats or costumes to take turns showing each other then taking screen shots
- Eat a meal together
- Brush your teeth together
- Open surprise eggs to share and show
- Sing songs together and have silly props or pictures to go with each song
- Simulate an exercise class – be goofy and have goofy music
- Learn to play Minecraft or another online game where you can see each on video while you play
- Learn to play a 2 person collaborative online game (again, preferred if you can see each other via video)
Online Conferencing Options
Just in case you are looking for free access that is easy to use, here are some ideas for online conferencing. You don’t need to be a business to have an account!