Some Days are Just Different

While working with her in a preschool program for children with autism at the UTD-Callier Center in Dallas, Texas, Dr. Pamela Rollins was the first to introduce me to the power of the concept of “different.” I use “different” all the time now with my children: this is a different afternoon, this is different food, this is a different plan…and “this is a different DAY.” Introducing the word, “different,” into a child’s core vocabulary is a way to mark for the child that there is going to be a diversion from the usual.

Tip: If you introduce the “different” concept about things that are, let’s say, lower stakes for your child, it will have a more positive connotation. You don’t want “different” to equal “bad.” Different is neither good nor bad; it’s just DIFFERENT.

So, you can begin to introduce any given holiday or special occasion, or really any change from the usual, as being “different.” Make sure that you have a picture symbol that you can show your child when something “different” happens. This visual symbol will support their attention to their concept, and their ability to “map” the spoken word to the symbol and the language concept.

Where holidays are concerned, I recommend using a calendar to visually mark a holiday. You and your child might place a sticker on the day in question and a visual symbol for “different.” Talk frequently about the “different day” that is coming. That way, when it comes, it won’t be so shocking!

In my next post, I’ll give you some more strategies to use at home to support your child’s understanding of the “different day” that is coming!

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