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Strategies to support in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Supporting interactions

The child who is autistic or has social communication differences may have difficulty tuning into others, they may find it difficult to play in parallel, to join others play and engage in reciprocal experiences.

The adult can support in the following ways:

  • Tune in to what the child is interested in. Copy and mimic any actions, sounds and movements that they use. Intensive interaction may be a useful intervention.
  • By using single words, leading on to phrases during play may be useful to support the development of language to accompany play.
  • Music can be a useful tool to engage autistic children. Singing made up songs to familiar tunes can spark interest.
  • Action songs may also support the child tune in to you and illicit responses, e.g. the child may learn the last word of a song.
  • Use high interest games/ songs e.g. to gain attention, for the child to initiate interactions and to develop reciprocal interactions.
  • Use high interest toys e.g. spinning tops, bubbles to gain attention and begin to develop reciprocal interactions. It can be helpful to use toys that the child requires your help with so that they can request your help/ support.
  • Consider the use of the attention autism training (bucket club)
  • For Early Years Settings consider booking Attention Building training delivered by the Speech and Language Setting Support (SALSS) team.

Free flow environment and play

Children with social communication differences or who are autistic within an early years environment, may find it very difficult to choose what to do if the provision is free flow. You may notice some of the following:

  • Play may be solitary and limited to exploring sensory aspects. Autistic children tend to spend longer using resources in a sensory way before moving onto more functional play.
  • They may choose the same resources frequently, and play in the same way, often due to the need of predictability and intolerance of uncertainty.
  • They may use resources in an unexpected way.
  • They may stand on the perimeter, be easily overwhelmed and need space away from peers.
  • They may rush from place to place.
  • They may flit between activities and may find it challenging to sustain attention.

Staff can help the child in the following ways:

  • Support children make choices in their play from the provision.
  • Play choices could be supported by use of a choice board, initially from a limited amount of resources. Photographs/ real objects to show what to play with in what order may be more appropriate.
  • Support the child to expand choices by teaching explicitly how to use resources firstly on an individual basis and then in the environment.
  • Provide a low arousal, low stimulation space where the child can have some downtime from the environment.
  • A workstation may be appropriate to support engagement in some experiences.

Links to resources:

National Strategies: Inclusion Development Programme Online Training Module.

Inclusion Development Programme (IDP) – Supporting children on the autism spectrum: Guidance for practitioners in the Early Years Foundation Stage

Early Years training delivered by the Speech and Language Setting Support (SALSS) team.

Information regarding Attention Autism

Last updated 3 November 2020

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