Red Buttons and Water

I worked for several years in a TEACCH preschool program, working with children with autism, between the ages of 2 ½ to 5 years of age. For many of these students, work itself was motivating, for others, work activities were of no apparent interest at all. One young man, named Chris, presented quite a challenge upon first entering the program, since he showed very little interest in anything. When so little interest is shown, how does one begin to motivate the young person to begin the journey on the educational highway?

RedButtonPic.jpgAfter assessing how Chris worked with a variety of different materials and how he handled himself in different situations, we observed that his most sustained attention and interest was when he had his hands in water at the sink.  His mother confirmed that since he was a baby, water was about the only thing that would comfort him during an upset. We used this information during his next work session in the classroom.

We set “Red Buttons in Water” in front of Chris and demonstrated how to take one button and drop it into the slot in the top of tube. With great interest he watched the button floating gently down out of sight, and then reached immediately for another button in order to make it happen again. This was the first time Chris had worked on something independently and with sustained interest.

We then took another simple activity that he had previously resisted doing. This ShoeboxTask involved moving blocks off of a strip of Velcro and placing them into a container. At his worktable, we placed the Blocks on Velcro activity in front of Chris, and we placed Red Buttons in Water in the uppermost right hand corner, within Chris’ sight, but out of his reach.

We established a visual connection between the Blocks on Velcro activity and the Red Buttons activity, saying, “First work” (gesturing to the activity in front of him), “Then play, gesturing towards Red Buttons.

At first, we only required Chris to move one block into the container before allowing him to do the Red Buttons. Over time, we increased the number of blocks to 10 and, once he was successful with that, we began adding a second activity that had to be “finished” before he could experience the Red Buttons again.

The rate at which one can increase the amount of work, before play, will vary from child to child. Let success and comfort levels be your guide.

Document Actions

Personal tools