What color is this?
How many balloons do you see?
What would you like to eat?
Do you want me to tickle you?
What is this object called?
Would you like me to sing you a song?
What do you want?
Is this object what you want?
Would you like me to pretend that I am a dog?
What noise does a cat make?
How many questions a day do you ask your child on the Autism Spectrum?
As adults we often ask questions to start conversations and to create connections and friendships. However, children rarely ask questions of their peers. When was the last time you observed a five-year-old go up to another five-year-old and ask him how his day was going? (Unless of course they had been directed to do so by their well meaning parent.) Children tend to make connections and friendships by going over to other children and joining in physically with the game or they stand by, looking interested. Or, they might go up to someone and say “watch this” as they do a cartwheel or ride a bike. These types of actions are how children create or initiate interactions.
Children on the Autism Spectrum find it challenging to initiate interaction. Due to this lack of initiation, adults working with their children may rely too heavily on asking questions as a way of getting their child involved. For every question we ask, there is an expectation of an answer. The more questions we ask the more answers we expect. Your child may feel bombarded with questions before you have a chance to introduce a fun game or activity. Question after question, regardless of our intentions, can come across as “testing” and can shut down our children’s desire to interact with us.
In The Son-Rise Program® we use questions as sparingly as we can. Below are guidelines that will help you adjust and reduce the number of questions you ask your child.
Before you ask your child a question, ask yourself; “Why am I asking this question?”
Is it because you actually want to know the answer, or is it a rhetorical question that is not meant for your child to answer? If it is indeed a rhetorical question – don’t ask it! Do what you were going to do without asking the unnecessary question because it only teaches your child that questions are not to be answered.
Are you asking a question just to hear your child say what they already know?
For instance, if you are just asking them what color something is just to hear them say the color, then ask them something different, something more interesting. If you are going to ask a question, we encourage you to ask an open-ended question without a right or wrong answer. For instance, you could ask your child who they think their funniest relative is or to tell you what magical powers they would like to have. This way our questions are not only playful but also will help them grow their ability to express their own thoughts and opinions.
Are you asking a question as a way to begin a conversation with your child?
This is one way to start, but there are also other ways that may be more interesting and more conversational for your child. Instead of asking a question, share a story, a comment or a thought about something that might interest your child. If your child is interested in dinosaurs, you could say something like:
“If I lived during the time of dinosaurs, I would make a dinosaur saddle so I could sit on the top of the dinosaur and ride him wherever he went.”
Here you have presented an interesting idea to your child to think about. Let them think about it by pausing and seeing if your child has a spontaneous verbal response to your thought. Give them time to reply and if they don’t, add another thought to your original statement:
“Then I would be so high up that I could see all across the land and the ocean.”
Then pause again. This way you are inspiring your child to spontaneously communicate their own thoughts and ideas, which helps them not only share their inner thoughts but to construct their own original sentences.
Are you asking a question as a way to start an activity?
Instead of asking a question, just start the activity. For example, instead of asking “Do you want to draw?” get a pen and paper and start drawing something you know your child would be interested in. This will help reduce the number of questions and it gives you an opportunity to model how fun it is to draw and gives your child a chance to observe and take part in the activity. This way you get straight to the fun!
There are ways to ask questions that solicit responses that do not sound like a test.
Instead of saying, “What color paper would you like”, you could think out loud and say to your child, “ooooh we have lots of colored paper here, I wonder which color we can use first…” Then pause to see if your child has a spontaneous comment. Instead of saying “How old are you?” say “You look like you are tall enough to be an eight-year-old.” Finally, pause to see if they answer or correct your statement. Get creative!
Changes are difficult to process and can cause increased anxiety and even behavioral outbursts. Keeping a tight schedule will help the child to feel safe. If the classroom becomes chaotic, the autistic student may need to regroup in a safe, quiet setting. A time out area is made for this. This time-out area is not a punishment, it is a place that the autistic child feels safe and is able to calm down and relax when their world has been turned upside down