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The Power of Pre-Teaching Children with Autism - Unleashing Potential

Have you ever practiced something before performing it in real life?

Do you know how good it feels to rehearse a song or speech before presentating it?

If you answered 'Yes' to one of the above, then you will see the power of pre-teaching skills to children with autism!

Two children ready to go to their first day of school

Neurodiverse children might not pick up on social cues. Sometimes, they don't know how to act appropriately at the playground or at a birthday party.

Even going to school on day 2, 3, 4 or 10 can still be daunting. Can you imagnine the feeling of having to learn the alphabet and maths in addition to learn social stuff. Some neurodiverse children also have sensory processing disorders and communication difficulties. These are challenges, but there are tools and strategies to reduce the anxiety around them.

One of the most powerful tool is pre-teaching. By pre-teaching social skills to a child with autism you are giving them a "sneak peek" or a heads up on what is to come. Before they are thrown in the social context of school or a birthday party, you can get them ready for what is to come. This will increase their chance of making friends, having fun and learning while reducing the potential for meltdowns.

Pre-teaching involves setting up the situation similar to the 'real life' setting. Break down the skill into bite-size pieces. You set up your child for success by explicitly telling them what you are going to practice. You can explain what will or will not happen. Practice the skill and give your child the positive outcome they want. Include lots of positive social praise! This will reinforce the new behaviour and increase the liklihood in the future. Turning teaching activities into a game and using reinforcment will increase your child's chance for success.

Pre-teaching activity with a child

Pre-teaching children with autism provides a structured and supportive environment that fosters comprehension. It gives your child the appropriate skills to use in different social contexts by breaking down situations into tiny parts. The skills they learned will help them to respond confidently when thrusted in various social environments and can help to reduce stress, anxiety and potentially feeling ridiculed by other children.

As a parent, you can setup a successful pre-teaching session to work on life skills, communication, routines and problem-solving.

For example, we have helped parents to get ready to travel. Weeks before travelling, we would break down different elements of the travel into small part and practice with the parents and their neurodiverse child. From packing the suitcase, driving to the airport, waiting in line to check-in for the flight, clearing security, boarding the plane, collecting the luggages, passing through customs, driving to the hotel and to finally settle in this new unfamiliar location.

The whole travel plan is explained using a social story, setting up the situation and then practicing the skills needed for each step.

Mother and son play at the table with tiny plane model and play-doh

In a nutshell, pre-teaching consists of 4 steps:

  • Break it down

  • Prompt

  • Practice

  • Reinforce

The 4 steps of pre-teaching

This technique is very effective for children with autism as they often respond well to structure and can have success in a relaxed environmetn (when usually they are faced with failure and stress). The new skills can be generalized to the real setting as soon as possible.

This tailored technique involves introducing concepts and skills to a child before they encounter them in a more formal setting, offering a proactive way to address challenges. It gives children with autism a sense of mastery and empowerement.

Pre-teaching is like using a cheat code in a video game, it fast-tracks your child's learning and turbo-boost their confidence.

If you are ready to empower your child by pre-teaching valuable skills, book a Complimentary Discovery Call with our Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to discuss how and what to pre-teach.

Pre-teaching works best when it is personalized and strategic.


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