When a neuro-typical child (one without a diagnosis) learns new skills, they naturally start to demonstrate those skills in different settings with different people and objects. For example a child learning to button up their trousers at home, may later on button up their jacket at school or their Teddy’s waist coat at a friend’s house. You can then say that the buttoning skill has been generalized. Generalizing is when something that is learnt in one setting is automatically used in another setting, or with another person or object, without them being specifically taught. Children with Autism may seem to make good progress when they first start learning a particular skill (the acquisition stage) but may quickly become stuck and only be able to perform those skills for certain people under specific conditions.
Generalization can be built into an ASD program from the start. Some parents/ tutors find this difficult as it slows down the rate at which they learn the new material (acquisition), but the upside is the skills are much more likely to be generalized. If a child requires the motivation that comes from the success of learning something quickly in order to ‘settle down’ into a program, then the acquisition phase can be focused on first and generalization techniques used later.
Generalization of the materials can be worked on by performing the learning targets using first objects, then objects in the natural environment, then photographs, followed by pictures in books then videos and DVD’s. If the child is learning what an apple is they need to learn it using the apple at the work table, then in the kitchen as they eat it, then with photographs and pictures in a book, and then they need to watch a DVD with apples in it.
Generalization of people and settings can be developed by first using different teachers/ tutors, first in the chair at a work table then out of the chair or on the floor. This can be done in various rooms, outside in the playground or at school. It can then be practiced with different family members, and different friends or classmates. The targets can be taught at first using simplified consistent language and slowly moving towards more natural language with varying phrases for each question or command.
For help with generalization techniques, please contact Athene today and book a free consult to find out what she can do to help you.