Mastering Joint Attention

Here are some tips and activity ideas that should help you to establish moments of joint attention with your child:

Do plenty of pointing. Once your child is consistently following your pointing, switch to turning your head in the object’s direction (or gently turn the child’s head). Progress to just shifting your eye gaze.

Up the ante. As your child can attend longer and longer, try adding in more steps before he/she can get the “prize”. You can always encourage your child to shift their attention from what they are playing with to what you have.

Teach them to look back and forth between you and an object.

Take advantage of unexpected or surprising occurrences during your day, such as the doorbell ringing, a bird chirping, or a toy tower toppling over. You can then look at your child with exaggerated surprise and respond with an enthusiastic “What could that be?” or “Uh‐oh!

Always give praise and/or positive reinforcement when they are looking, saying “Good looking!”, trying to be explicit when possible. For example, say, “Great job chasing the bubble and popping it!” We want to expand their communication skills, too, remember.

Label novel objects/events. (Car rides are great because you have the child restrained as a captive audience to whatever is outside the window.)

When playing games, don’t forget to point out “your turn!” and “my turn!”

Follow your child’s lead.  A 2014 study published in journal ‘Autism’ found that when parents were responsive during interactions, the child with ASD tended to initiate joint engagement with them. This involved allowing the child to choose the activity.

When your child shows interest in an object, mimic their interest. Get involved by making enthusiastic comments and copying your child’s actions.

Respond to your child’s messages, don’t always take over the interaction, and most importantly keep it positive and fun!

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