Teaching a Child on the Autism Spectrum to Ask for Help
Typically-developing children give items to their carers when they need help. For example, if a child tries to blow up a balloon but is unsuccessful, they will give it to an adult, who will be able to blow it up. Giving objects to another person is the first step in asking for help and developing early social interactions. However, this does not come so naturally to children on the autism spectrum, and they have to learn to ask for help. If a child on the spectrum can’t blow a balloon up, he is likely to give up and focus on something else rather than ask you for help.
You can help by teaching your child to give objects to you that they need help with.
- Show your child a clear container, e.g. a sealed plastic bag, a lidded plastic container, that he can’t open by himself. Put a highly motivating toy or snack in it.
- If your child reaches for the container, give it to him. He is likely to struggle to open it.
- Reach your open hand to him and say, “Need help?’ If he doesn’t give you the container, prompt him to give it to you by putting your hands over his and guiding him. Take it, open it quickly and give it back, saying, “Here’s the (name the object)!”
Repeat this throughout the day in different situations, e.g. when he is playing, at meal times, at bath time. Try to use the same prompts – your outstretched hand and “Need help?” and “Here’s the (name the object)!” so that this becomes a familiar routine.
After a few days, see if your child gives the container to you without any prompting or support. If he doesn’t, keep on following these steps until he starts to offer you things without prompts.