reading storytime

Flexibility 101: Reading

Reading is so important. It develops listening skills and models conversations.

As parents of children on the spectrum, we try to make life as easy as possible for our children. They desperately need routine so we try to make accommodations to keep them happy and keep their world calm and safe. One of the hardest things I’ve had to do in Early Intervention is teach my son flexibility, but it’s so very important for us both, to learn how to cope when things aren’t the same.

At home, our kids can watch the same Youtube videos over and over, we can listen to the same music, read the same books, and eat the same foods. When we leave the house, everything becomes a variable and a child without the skills to handle a changing environment can meltdown. It almost feels backwards to push changes onto our children, because it makes them so unhappy. But it’s our responsibility to help them deal with the world around them when we can’t control the situation.

My son had three favorite books that only Daddy could read, only at bedtime, and they had to be read the exact same way. In fact anytime we even suggested a new book, he would scream and throw a fit. We accommodated him for the longest time because it took so long to incorporate reading into his bedtime routine and we didn’t want to disrupt anything.

Our Special Education teacher explained this is a great opportunity to teach flexibility. So if your child, like mine, is rigid with reading time, here’s a few ways to broaden their reading experience:

Bring Home A New Book – letting your child explore books at the store or library could be a great way to bring a new book into their routine, especially since they’ll be in charge of the decision making.

Read During A Meal – When kids are busy eating, grab a book and start reading. You don’t have to worry about making sure they are paying attention. The act of reading a new book, outside of their normal routine is the goal.

Make Up The Story – Either using a book favorite or with a new book, use the pictures to tell your own story. You can even add personal details that will make the story more engaging.

Make A Deal – For kids who are super stuck in their routine, try to make a deal with reading. For example, you will read two pages of a book you picked out, and then you will read the book they picked out.

Create A Story Book – have your child draw pictures and help create a story of their very own. Or take pictures of you and your child participating in favorite activities and use a photo album to create a story.

Keep in mind that what works one day, may not the next depending on how their day went. I know that on days where we run lots of errands or don’t do any sensory activities, Simon tends to be too bonkers for a book, even if it’s his favorite one.

Reading is so important. It develops listening skills and models conversations. However you engage in reading with your child, you are already doing awesome! And remember, you know your child best. You know what will work and where you can introduce flexibility, so be creative and have fun!

Previously posted at Hudson Valley Parent Magazine.

*If you have any concerns about your child, please discuss with their pediatrician or contact your local school district or Early Intervention center for an evaluation.*