Saturday, February 11, 2012

Lights and Shadows

IN the simplicity of basic objects kids discover the wheels, hinges, joints, connections, axles, and angles that build our complex world. By encouraging learning using their early perseverations, they can go from tediously studying the simplest toy to navigating the internet by kindergarten. It's just another paradox of autism that reminds me that autists are smarter than I am.  Here's some ways to work with simple 'toys' at your house.

1.) Lines on the floor (above) formed when light shines through blinds. You can line up little toys, animals, letters, words, anything really.  Conveniently,  the light stays in one place about as long as a young child's attention span - so it's perfect!

2.) Pulling a bright fleece blanket over your bodies and heads as you and your child snuggle.  If you do it in bright sunlight, the effect reminds me of stained glass. My little boy is truly intrigued by it.

3.) Dust floating through the air. I used to be mesmorized by this when I was little. It's fun to move your hand through the particles.

4.) You can make shadows by arranging boxes, books, balls, toys; everything has a shadow in the right light! The funnest shadow, of course, is your own and kids love to step on, chase, dance, or even quietly sit with their own.  You just need to show them how.

5.) Flashlights can make light big, little, dance, shimmer, bounce; appear and dissapear - it's very captivating! One flashlight is packed full of therapeutical play for toddlers or preschoolers.

6.) Let him carry it around with him.  There's just something magical about having a flashlight, I don't know what it is, but I try to remember how much fun I had with flashlights and know my kids will have fun too.

7.) Bounce the light on the wall, the floor, the ceiling.  Do it slowly at first to get his attention and then help him track the light. Pointing at it with your finger might help him learn to follow your point.
8.) You can teach 'on' and 'off' by clicking the toggle and expressing the terms, 'on' and 'off.'   If you have a non-verbal child, encourage him to say or sign the word 'flashlight' by playfully withholding the flashlight until he says the word or something close to it,  but give into him before he cries, you don't want that!  You can also teach your toddler to sign the word "on" and the sign for the word "off."  Click the highlighted words to see the words signed.

9.) Hide objects in a dark room.  I like the cupboard under the sink in the bathroom. I hide Izaiah's mega-blocks or plastic animals, or maybe a video. He thinks it's exciting. I think of all the eye-hand coordination and comprehension that is happening  

Lights and shadows provide interactive play, sensory integration, comprehension, speech therapy, and socializing all rolled into one very inexpensive ball. The last time I checked, sunlight is still free and so is Mommy!

Psalm 139:14 I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are the works and that my soul knoweth right well.  God knows our kids and has carefully, strategically, made them exactly the way they are supposed to be.  Their interests may be different from the 'norm' but so what?  They know in their souls what delight them. When we accept and validate our kids, behaviors and all, successful futures are being forged.

Annie Eskeldson writes for parents of young autists.  She has 2 at home and provides their therapy and homeschooling.  Other non-typical toys her kids have enjoyed include, faces, hands, water, stairs, and plastic water bottles.   She has 3 published children's books about autism.  You can check them out at


  1. I hope you enjoyed this post. There are so many different types of play that parents have found their kids love that are different than what many kids consider to be fun. These are just a few that have come out of our home. I'd love for you to share yours!!

  2. What lovely ways to develop joint attention!

  3. What great ideas for us to interact with our children on their level! Your ideas always hit home! Love it!