Teaching Children with Autism using Table Time: Frequently Asked Questions

For the third episode in a row, Kelsey General joins me, this time to ask frequently asked questions from our community about table time. Table time is an integral part of the Turn Autism Around approach that in a lot of ways sets my approach apart from others. If you’re a part of the community or have been listening to this podcast, you know that families have seen major success using table time as a key part of their intervention, including Kelsey who gave her update on her sons last week.

Why is table time important?

Many people who are just learning the Turn Autism Approach often are confused by table time, and assume natural environment teaching is better. When table time is successful, teaching can be paired with a natural environment but the table is a critical way to get your child to focus on specific skills, words, and activities. You can do more repetition and therefore have faster learning on critical skills.  Table time removes the distraction and competition of their natural environment to a safe, dedicated space for learning filled with the child’s favorite things. The most important piece of table time is positivity. There is no forcing, crying, or restraining involved in table time using my approach. Table time is slowly paired using high reinforcement, in a sanitized environment meaning that there is not a lot of toys scattered around the room away from the table. Aside from the great progress in skills that can be made at table time, most families report an immense positive change in the relationship and connection with their child.

Can we use the floor or a highchair for table time?

Ideally, table time should be done at a safe, child size table and chair where the child can sit safely and comfortably on the floor. Depending on the age or ability of the child, this may not be possible. If the child is very young and not walking or sitting in a chair yet, or there are other physical disabilities preventing safe, comfortable sitting in a regular chair, then a highchair or adapted chair is fine. However, as soon as a child learns to sit in a chair and can go so safely, they should be moved to the traditional table immediately. Using a highchair to strap down or restrain a child from running should absolutely not be done. Table time should start as a focus time for just learning to sit at the table if the child is unable to sit because of escaping. Kelsey shares some great tips for how she used reinforcement to train her son Brentley to sit at the table with very, very short table times and slowly building up.

My child won’t sit still, what do I do?

In the episode, Kelsey and I provide great ideas for getting a child to learn to sit. The key is to not be hard on yourself, not expect to have long 20 minute, engaged and activity filled table times from the start. Table time might be only 1 or 2 minutes when you’re first getting started. It should be a lot of fun with very little to no demands. Additionally, I recommend using at least 5 good reinforcements that the child is interested in. If they leave, look at where they go and what they get. You can bring whatever they want away from the table, to the table! Once practiced and adapted, a child will love and look forward to sitting at the table.

My child takes the reinforcers and runs, how do I keep them happy at the table?

There can be a few reasons and a few responses to this. First of all, do you have the right reinforcements? Not everyone likes to use edibles as reinforcement but I think small food and sips of drinks are great reinforcements because they are consumable. Toys at some point have to be given back to start the next task, while a small pretzel can be eaten and more work needs to be done to get more. Bubbles, and toys with parts(like a coin pig) are other good items that don’t need to be given back. Are you giving the reinforcement fast enough? It’s not likely you’re going to finish a whole puzzle or get through 20 shoebox cards before a reinforcement is needed, give the reinforcements in smaller more obtainable chunks. As far as responding, make sure you’re staying in control of the reinforcers and not allowing the child easy access or free access to them. And if they get up from the table, watch them, see where they go and use that information to inform and plan your next table time.

My child is not repeating words or engaging in activities, what’s wrong with our table time?

There are so many skills that are being worked on just in the functionality of table time, sitting, matching, joint attention, imitation, etc. Listen for the pop out words in their day to day and bring them into the activities, bring in songs they already like. It’s all about making connections, “if I say this, I get this…maybe I could say __”. I discuss a couple instances in podcast episodes with typically developing children, including my son Spencer, in which echoics were fairly “delayed”. The appropriate age for echoic control has a very wide range of normal and even if your child isn’t using echoics yet, keep working with them.

In this episode we cover tons of advice for those who are struggling with table time and if you haven’t yet, join our course and community, read my book, and check out my book resources. These really are the tools to get the results you’re looking for in the quickest, most efficient way, all while receiving the support of a community who is on the same path.

Teaching Children with autism using Table Time: Frequently Asked Questions

Mary Barbera – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 177
Teaching Children with autism using Table Time: Frequently Asked Questions
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Kelsey General

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around Podcast Episode Number 177. I am bringing Kelsey General back for our third week in a row, but this time we are talking about frequently asked questions regarding a subject and that subject this week is table time. We have previously done another episode with frequently asked questions regarding problem behavior, but this one is all about table time. Why it's important? Is it a big part of my program? The answer is yes and some of the troubleshooting when table time doesn't go well.

Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed, and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: Welcome back to another episode. I have Kelsey here. We're talking all about table time. And Kelsey is going to be asking me five questions that routinely come up within our online course and community about table time. So welcome back to the show. Kelsey, you're becoming quite a regular here.

Kelsey: Yeah!Thanks for having me back. And I'm looking forward to talking about table time because yeah, I just think it's such an underrated but such a helpful part of a program. And so, yeah, let's get right into it with our first question, which is why is table time important?

Why Is Table Time Important?

Mary: Right. And it is kind of unusual and it is a big part of the Turn Autism Around approach because I have spent years and mostly I got to this discovery about table time. Well, actually, it's been quite a long time. When Lucas started therapy, ABA therapy, you know, that was more of a traditional ABA approach where coming to the table and staying at the table was a big goal. Then over the years, I worked a lot with school age kids who were at desks in schools and preschools. And then I got back to the home setting around 2010, and that's really where I developed my procedures that are in my Turn Autism Around book and courses today. And what I found when I was an early intervention provider is that there was a lot of focus on floor time, not on table time, and there was a lot of very well-meaning, qualified, seasoned, early intervention professionals who spent half an hour of their session or an hour chasing kids around and getting very few, quote unquote, trials in of anything. So they might be playing with a farm on the floor. And then Johnny gets up and runs to the window and they're trying to say cow, and they run after him over. But look at this cow. They're trying to kind of bring him back to the cow, but now he's onto something else. The train set which is laying around or he's off to a window. So then they try to go and get him and pair something they see out the window and there's just not a focus on like, okay, this session we're working on these words, these activities. And I found that kids did better when there was a dedicated area, mainly a small table and chairs. And that was and still is a big part of my program. And you might be listening, thinking, you know, I always heard that natural environment teaching is better and that following the child's lead, our table time is very different. It is not calling a kid to a table, having them look at me, staying seated. There's no crying. There's no trying to corral a child with your legs to keep them at the table. Our table time is very much a mixture of natural environment, teaching, manding, pairing, and then you're in a position where you have a table, you can start matching, you can start imitation, you can start object imitation. You get good sitting behavior, good attending behavior, acceptance of reinforcement, and you get skill acquisition very quickly. So there are four steps of the turn autism around approach, assessment, planning, teaching and using easy, easy data to make sure you're making progress. And my program in Chapter five of my Turn Autism Around Book on page 63, I talk about the importance of table time. This whole thing is going to be about table time, and we're going to be answering questions when it doesn't go well, because that's what we see Kelsey. We see a lot of our online participants come in and they may have read the book and even attempted table time on their own, and it just hasn't gone well. But I also think just having a table time and pairing that up and being that being not we don't call it work. We call it learning time, mommy time. You know, I remember showing up at Cody's house, my former client, and he, you know, I'd come to the door and he'd run over and try to start dragging out the table into the middle of the room. I mean, that's the kind of excitement we want to have. I also think personally, it's easier to gain joint attention skills and it's also easier to train new therapists once you have the child loving or liking table time, it's easier to train therapists. You actually have to be quite, quite seasoned and excellent to learn how to do natural environment teaching well, but I think table time is easier to train, so I talk too much. Kelsey, why do you agree? Do you disagree with any of that or what?

Kelsey: No, I don't disagree with any of that. And one thing we've heard a lot from people in our community, and I think even Michelle C said it in the episode you did with her and another parent, you did an episode with said as well, table two. And it happened for me, too. When you have a young child with autism or showing delays, they are often in their own world. I mean, if they weren't in their own world, they probably wouldn't have these delays, they would be a lot more engaged with us. Right. And I think the table offers a point where you have all their favorite things. We're all at this table. We're not darting all over the place, competing with all this reinforcement in the room. It's just you, the child and the stuff. And we've had people say that, like their relationship with their children got better, whether they gained skills or not, which they did, but whether they gained skills or not, their relationship got so much better because they could finally connect over something. It wasn't always like, I'm chasing my child to teach that. It was finally like a connection. And so I think that's a big importance of table time. And yeah, it wasn't easy and we'll talk about this later to get Brentley, my oldest is that he wanted nothing to do with it and I remember some of my questions early on were like, can he just stand at the table? Because he definitely is not sitting. But it really did. The importance of getting him to sit and be at the table was probably one of the most important skills we ever taught.

Mary: Yeah, and we'll definitely link Michelle's C.'s podcast 164. Elissa talked about it in Hotseat Number Four, I just interviewed Grandma Tina from Hotseat Number Five, and she talked all about how she sees her grandson a couple of times a week. She has table time. Her parents are generalizing table time, but it really has resulted in such big improvements and calmness. You know, even if you were having a new practice of yoga or you were doing something, I mean, you would have a spot, you'd have a bag, you'd have materials. So if you just said, Well, I'm going to do it anywhere around the house and do it for 2 minutes here, you know, it's like you need to set it up to focus, like if you wanted to learn something. Like, okay, this is the desk where I pay attention for, you know, it doesn't have to start out at 15 minutes or 30 minute sessions. It starts out smaller, especially for very young children. But this constant darting or inattention. It's just hard to compete with. And one thing I learned early on is that kids need lots of trials and adults, but especially kids on the spectrum, need lots of trials to learn something. And if so, if you're just holding up a cow and saying cow, are you looking out the window once and saying, tree? That's just not enough trials to really learn needed information. So hopefully I've convinced you if you're a part of my online courses or even if you've read my book or listen to other podcasts or video blogs, you're going to probably remember that I'm big on table time. But I think that's an understatement. Table time is one of the pivotal differences of my approach.

Kelsey: Now and a positive table time, obviously, that we've talked about in previous episodes. You know, no escape extinction. We're not forcing anyone at the table.

Mary: No, crying. No, you know, we had one one example from an online participant whose child was happy and learning and saying Apple and smiling and giggling. And then they got to the front of the line for ABA therapy and they came in and they said, Well, we're going to, you know, do therapy in this bedroom. We're going to close the door. You're going to hear a lot of crying. So that's just a part of it. No, it's not a part that's not a part of anything we do if there's crying involved and you just have to work through the crying that's not using the Turn Autism Approach or anything that I would put my name on. So know that. Thank you for pointing that out, Kelsey, that we are talking about a very positive table time experience and very child friendly.

Kelsey: Yeah. Yeah. And the way I like to look at it that we talk about sometimes in the courses is the table is the oasis, the water is where we want to be to learn. And if you don't have that kind of relationship, then that with the table, then you need to go back and start there and make it like that.

Mary: And we don't, this isn't going to be table time, 24/7. We use the table to make the initial gains and then we're quickly generalizing skills. You know, I talked in the last episode how Kelsey, you know, couldn't get Brentley to sit at the table, but once she got him sitting and attending and doing Potato Head, then they actually used Potato Head built and took him out in the community and were able to work on all kinds of skills and safety skills. And so we're using the table and we're not just using it quickly and being done with the table. Table time continues to be an important part of my approach, but it's balanced with everyday activities and learning self-care skills in the shower, in the bathroom, going out in the community, learning how to snowboard. Those are all skills that we want to teach.

Kelsey: Yeah, yeah. So that was our first. That's kind of our first. And as we go into the next question, I kind of brought it up and it says, Is the floor okay? Or strapping a child into a highchair and Brewster standing by the table because my child won't sit and like, how long are they expected to sit? So yeah, and I talked about this. I had a real hard time with Brentley at the beginning. He was two and a half when we started, but some of our participants in the courses have even younger children, so.

Can My Child Sit On The Floor Or In A Highchair For Table Time?

Mary: Right. So I would say if they're very young, you know, if they're babies, if they're one, if they're not walking and they're not stable or are you that they're a little bit older and have some kind of physical disability in addition to autism or learning issues? You don't want them to be, you know, not sitting well. So in general, we want a seated position where both their feet are on the floor, not dangling. And somebody even asked the question within our community, well, what does it matter? It's like if you think about learning, you really do want stability. You want your feet on the floor flat. And, you know, Cody's mom was on one of the episodes. So we can link that. And Cody did go on to get a diagnosis of mild cerebral palsy and addition and visual impairments. And so he was kind of unstable. So his grandfather, who's very handy, builds like a back for his seat and he actually built arms on his seat and he built arms on his little potty seat to make it make him more stable. So in general, it's okay if they're little and unstable to have them in the highchair for physical support or have them in adaptive seating. But in terms of strapping them in to lock them in. No. You know, if they are able to walk and sit, then they should be able to sit that right away and not for long periods in a little chair. Even if, like you said, you had to get like I said, you had to get little arms on a chair, but strapping them in or forcing them to sit as something we don't want to do. And as soon as they can sit safely, we want them in a regular seat. We don't want to strap two and a half year olds into a highchair and keep them there. We don't for or for therapy or for feeding. They need to progress up to booster seats to sitting at the table. We talked about this with Melanie Potok in a recent episode on Feeding, and SLP, who was really great. We talked about a highchair, a booster seat, but in terms of learning, it may be an initial thing. But, you know, I think for early intervention professionals, it's like you feel like, oh my God, I get once a week or once every two weeks with an SLP. I'm going to strap them down and have them learn or have them do something. But in the end the parent and the providers really need to develop an approach where a child knows they can come and they can learn. They could leave, if they leave, it's not a matter of just get back here, it's what are they leaving for? Oh, they're going to the train set. Could we clean up the train set? One of the things we talk about throughout our course and in the book is sanitizing the environment so that there's not all this free reinforcement which we're trying to compete with. Like Kelsey said, we need the oasis, the really fun stuff to be at the table with us. So if they're leaving for the train set or they're leaving for the trampoline or they're leaving to dump a bin of toys out on the floor, then that all that stuff is not, quote unquote, sanitized. And so we need to do a better job. But anything to add on maybe somewhere Brentley wouldn't sit for, you know.

Kelsey: Yeah. So Brentley, what he didn't like, but like he would stand at the table, but he wouldn't sit where he'd sit and he would kind of like climb up on it to get stuff. I mean, he would maybe sit for like a second and then he'd stand and he really wouldn't do anything sitting. I never strapped him into a highchair. But I did for a while do table time standing. But then it became clear that it was important for him to say it. So what I would do is I would have we talked a lot about reinforcement in the courses and one reinforcement that Brentley liked was he liked his show on the TV and so and I would be like, okay first sit and as soon as his butt hit the chair, I hit play on the TV when he stood up I'd pause the TV and say sit and the second he said sit I'd play the TV and so we just I didn't place any demands we weren't even doing anything at the table. It was just teaching him that sitting is okay and continuing to build up a positive relationship with sitting. We actually talked about it in our course call, our unstuck call. Some people were saying, Well, my child's really happy at the high chair, but they're not happy at the table. And it's like, okay, well, maybe you do a couple of things at the high chair if they're happy, but then the goal still needs to be practicing at the table with just a lot of fun. And that means, like you said, pairing of the child's leaving to go get trains, bring the train to the table, put the trampoline away until after table time, or jump on the trampoline before table time. It's really about what can I do to make them want to be here? And that might mean not doing anything except having a ton of fun for a little while.

Mary: And have it getting reinforcement. So we recommend at least five reinforcers at the table, potential reinforcers. So just sitting to get the movie played, to get small bites of foods and drinks and bubbles and you know, it doesn't even have to be like that kind of reinforcer, finger paint, water play, sand play, bring those things to the table that are highly reinforcing, bring, you know, ice pops or a sippy cup full of juice or something that the child really likes. And so work towards it. I mean, floor, I am not a huge fan, but if you're going to do something on a floor, I would at least put a blanket out to make a parameter of like this is where we're going to sit to play this specific thing. Again, it's just teaching kids not to just run around the house. And that's the other thing is preferably you're doing table time in a room that can be gated or the door closed, not to have the child screaming by the door or anything. If that's happening, that's not good. But just to provide that extra barrier that you're not competing with everything in the house, just everything in the sanitized room. And some people do that in the basement or in their dining room or in the kid's bedroom. If they don't have sleep problems, if they have sleep problems, that's probably not a great idea, even in a corner of a room. But, you know, the gates are just kind of an initial barrier. But if we've got enough reinforcement going, we're not going to need much to keep the child there and happy.

Kelsey: Yeah. And I and I think a lot of people think, well, my child's so energetic and is always running around, will never sit. But I mean, even if you make your table time one minute long and they're sitting for one minute and you're like, Well, get table time's done, let's go run around and then you slowly make it a little longer. But one thing you told me in the early days when really when it said was if he's averagely sitting for 2 minutes, end table time at one minute, okay, now he's sitting for five minute and table so that we're ending table time on a super positive. While we're sitting, we're not ending table time when I decided I'm done, so I'm going to stand up and run around and now table time ends. And so it's really in our language we call this shaping. We're shaping sitting at the table and that just means to build it up really slowly. It doesn't need to be you're sitting down and teaching for 20 minutes, day one.

Mary: Yeah, and some people have used visual timers like 5 minutes, and then we're going to go outside for 10 minutes and then we're going to come back and do another table time. Then we're going to go into the basement to play with the ball pit. And so it can be and even made even for kids who really don't appear to understand much or don't read, we can just draw a little picture like outside and table time and we can have a picture a picture schedule for some kids. That helps for some kids that doesn't help. But just kind of knowing what's coming next. Sometimes help helps kids and then just start with really small table time sessions, mostly with reinforcement at first, then with the early learning materials that should be pretty neutral or reinforcing like a shoe box putting pictures in it. That's not a hard demand. It should and it can become a reinforcer really quickly, but then moving to other things. So it's not just the shoe box where we're doing Potato Head or puzzles. We're doing bubbles where, you know, oh, let's go outside, let's come back in. So it doesn't have to be like, okay, that's 2 minutes of table time. Now we're all done. Table time for the day could be 2 minutes. And then we do this for another 10 minutes. So we come back for two or three more minutes. And pretty soon if you have the right if you don't have the right mode meant, that's when you're going to get the escape kind of behavior and that not cooperation. But once you get cooperation at a table, even for an 18 month old or a 14 month old, let alone a four year old or a six year old, it is going to prove to be one of your best skills. I know Grandma Tina just said one of the biggest strengths of her grandson was his ability and willingness and loving the table. And yeah.

Kelsey: Yeah. And I have you know, I've had professionals in and out of my house for years, obviously. And everyone has always said, Wow, it's so great. He runs to the table, he runs to learning. You know, you're like, okay, table time. And he's dropping his 20 Legos. He's sitting there and he's walking to the table. No problem. Like, I mean, that's pretty crazy. So it's good. Our third question kind of I think we kind of answered already, but it's my child who runs around all day and won't sit even for a second. What can I do? And I think we just answered that.

What Can I Do For A Child Who Won’t Sit Still?

Mary: Yeah. Yeah. And keeping things short ending on a high note, really planning so that we're just if we don't have the right reinforcers, you know, people post all the time in our community, alright he won't sit, like well, do you have your five reinforcers? Do you have, you know, it's all covered in chapter five of my book and the courses. Just keep at it because once it clicks it really does make a difference.

Kelsey: Yeah. And try not to get discouraged by really short table times. And you also do have a video blog on table time and reinforcement where you talk more about different ways to keep it fun, just like you did now.

Mary: Yeah. So we're going to link like two or three different table time videos that I have in podcast 177. So you can take a look at all those and there might be some additional little nuggets in there as well.

Kelsey: Yeah. So our next question is, my child just constantly wants the reinforcement. If I have it and they don't have a whole bowl of food, for example, they get upset or I give them the reinforcement and they run away from the table with it. So what can I do to keep them happy at the table with the reinforcers?

What Can I Do To Keep My Child Happy At The Table With The Reinforcers?

Mary: Yeah. So with the reinforcers at the table it's important that you do kind of maintain the quote unquote control of the reinforcers because if you just have like a bowl or some people use like a fish tackle system where it's just all out in sight on the table and there I don't like the whole fish taco idea because the reinforcers are too close. So if a child is trying to reach for this little bin in the tackle box has candy and this one has chips and they're reaching for it. You don't know what they're reaching for. So I actually like food reinforcers. If we're going to use those, we have them in clear baggies. And then that way the candy can be in one baggie on this side of the table and the chips can be on the side of the table. Or I have both of them, but they're separated apart. Because if a child can reach for them or even has more eye contact with one, you'll know what they want. So you can prompt the sign or the word, or at least you'll prompt the word before you give it to them. So that's one thing is keep your stuff. So it's not an open bowl, so it's it's actually a bag. So if they do grab the chips, it's like, oh, you want to chip? Okay, let me open the chip. You want a chip? Chip. Chip. Now, some people listening may be like, I don't like the whole idea of using edible reinforcement. I don't like the idea of feeding my kid. My kid has feeding problems or tube feed or I can't do that or, you know, and I have worked with kids who can't eat, who have tube feeding to, you know, the families don't want them to have edible reinforcers. The schools won't allow it, whatever the situation. I'm not saying you have to use edible reinforcers. I think it's a good idea. We're working on really hard skills, sitting, attending, talking imitation. These are all skills that are going to be so hugely beneficial that edibles are a primary reinforcer. You don't have to use junk food. You could use grapes cut up, you can use raisins, you can use applesauce, you can you know, you don't have to think like edibles have to be junk, but your child has to like it. They have to really like it. And they can't be given, you know, if they love raisins, they can't be given free access to raisins or a box of raisins before table time for free. It's just like after a heavy Thanksgiving meal, you're not going to be like learning Spanish to earn, you know, candy, it's like I'm too old to even learn anything, let alone to be learning something and getting candy. So I would also position children so that they're not really able to grab reinforcers in the beginning as much you might want to put them in a bin on the floor, and then when it's time for reinforcement, you could hold up your different reinforcers. So I usually recommend two edibles if you're going to use it a drink, some bubbles or books or music. And I do. In some cases most of the kids are really into electronics. Now, that is a very controversial and very difficult thing because kids are getting way too much electronic time, way too much iPad time. And that is, I think, contributing to some of their language delays and problem behaviors to have so much. In Chapter nine of my Turn Autism Around book, I talk about Drew who had an older brother that I worked with who had moderate to severe autism, then Drew all of a sudden during COVID was out of date care and was getting way too much iPad time. And anyway, so if. But if your child is getting some electronic time, if you're not like a no screen family, then using electronics like Kelsey suggested with putting a movie on and pausing that until they sat down and playing that for like 10 to 15 second bursts can often lead to pretty dramatic increases in sitting, attending language limitation, all the skills we want. So it's not an absolute, but I have found that using videos, DVD players, iPads or iPhones, not as much because those are the children usually want to hold them and control them. So what are your thoughts on all of that or?

Kelsey: Yeah. I like everything you said. I think one thing I would say is if a child's doing a lot of grabbing and such for reinforcement, you're probably just not delivering it fast enough.

Mary: Good point.

Kelsey: I think a lot of people want to get through the whole puzzle or my stack of 20 shoe box cards before I give a tiny piece of raisin. But like, if a child's getting to the point where they're grabbing, that's the same as a child getting up and walking away. It's just telling you your reinforcements. Not right. Right. Don't be afraid at the beginning to give them a piece of whatever you're giving them to do the wind up and do it continuously at the beginning and then pull the wind up toy back, do one shoe box card and then wind it up again. If you're giving it fast enough, you shouldn't get a lot of reaching and crying.

Mary: Yeah, excellent point. And yeah, I always say if you see problem behavior, so gravity is a problem, the demands are too high and or reinforcements too low. So one of the things you can do really quickly. Really good. Glad you made that point. Flip it, make sure you're dense, dense reinforcement. Oh, you want to grab up the chip. So here, here's a chip. Here's a chip. We're turning on the movie. We're giving chips and movie. Here's a drink, here's our apple juice. Oh, let's do the wind up toy. So we're getting that child to have very, very dense reinforcement. Yeah. And only then can you really even scale back. So I love that, that point. Just give, give, give, be the giver, not the taker. And that's another reason I like edibles is because they're consumable. Bubbles are also consumable, not edible, but they go away. So you blow a bubble and then they pop and they disappear. You eat a pretzel,a mini pretzel or piece of a pretzel. You chew, you swallow. It's gone. If I give them Thomas a train or a big car, it's not consumable. So now at some point, I've got to get it back before I can, then give them the next demand or the trial, or try to get them to request the next reinforcement. So one of the things you can do if they like trains or cars is have not one big car but ten little cars so that it's constantly like, oh, and then, you know, you can race them. And now I've got three other cars, now I can kind of sneak the other car back. So it's a constant. You can be the giver. And the other final point, that it was kind of part two of that question, what do I do if they take the materials or the reinforcement and run from the table? Now, I said, we don't want to trap them or force them to set, but we do want to position ourselves and them so that the materials are next to us. And the children are kind of like, if I'm near a doorway and the child has some issues with running out the doorway, I'm not going to want the child to have free access to the doorway. I'm going to position them on the opposite side of the table where I can at least play some defense if they get up and start running so that they're not going to get to the table, or if they want to leave, they can leave. But I'm going to try to snag my reinforcers or my materials back. We do not want children to be hijacking the materials and running away from the table. That gets our oasis to different parts of the room. And then we're not the giver. We're the kind of the taker. But it's like a dance. It's not going to be perfect. And there may be a, you know, a little like not perfect. Well, I shouldn't have let them leave, but now they left. So, you know, when we just don't want to panic, we don't want to result in screaming. But if you get a little crying and then you learn, okay, next time he's not sitting on the side of the room where he can just bolt or I'm going to keep my potato head when I'm not using it in the bin, in the bag. So he's not going to be able to grab it. You get better at it.

Kelsey: Yeah, you get better at it. And I would say this is probably one of the only cases and early stages where I do see a bit of it. Some kids do like they want the truck, but they only want the truck on the floor or they but they only want and in that case, it does take a little bit of boundary setting, just like with everything in life and you can have this, but we're playing with it at the table. Yeah. If you don't want to play at the table, that's fine. But this stays at the table. Yeah. And continuing to make it known that this is available to you. Oh, you're away from the table. We're just going to put it right back on the table and you can sit and they might whine a little but I find very, very, very quickly. They are like, Oh, this isn't a big deal like that all the time.

Mary: I remember this one client. I think I have it somewhere in one of the courses, but his name was Grant and he would love to take this one sippy cup and run from the table and sit and drink. And so I was just like, What do we do? So we got a different sippy cup with like handles. And then I have one video where I'm like, Whoa! And let them take a sip out of the straw. And I held it. Yeah. So like a different sippy cup or maybe different cars or whatever that he's not so used to like that's where I play with that.

Kelsey: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think those are all good suggestions. And I mean, if a child's taking an edible and walking and now that it's in their mouth, they're walking like some people ask about that. I mean, that's fine. I mean, they'll come back if they want another one. If they don't, then watch where they go and bring them back.

Mary: That's a really good point, is to watch where they go if they leave. I know I said this before, but it's super important. Let them go see where they go. Talk among yourselves. If you're sitting there with somebody else or pretend to play on your phone and just watch them, don't give them attention. Just watch what they do. Maybe they're going to go over, you know, get something and bring it right back. Like just see what they do, where they go. Yeah. And then go from there.

Kelsey: Yeah. So that was that question. And then our last question is my child sits and is happy but isn't repeating words as we do activities or really engaging that much? What can I do?

My Child Isn’t Repeating Words Or Engaging In Activities Yet, What Do I Do?

Mary: Yeah. So over the years I've learned that actually, echoic control and repeating which we've done a podcast on, I can only give the show as it actually comes in even for typically developing kids and a very wide range of ages. Rachel, We did a podcast with her. She also is on our our team, our professional team, but she did a podcast with me about her son Everett, who had some speech delays, but he is typically developing. He's in some of our videos, but he only started repeating Rachel at 27 months of age. And when he was about 24 months of age, she was using all the material. She's like, He's not repeating. And I looked in our baby book and Spencer, my typically developing son, who's on podcast 85, we can link that in the show notes. It's one of my favorite episodes, has nothing to do with table time, but it is a really good episode. But anyway, Spencer only had echoic, I only had echoic control even though I had no idea what that was. He only started echoing at 27 months of age two. So when I hear people getting discouraged about table time and they're not saying, you know, words are there just pop out words here. And there they may be on the younger side. Everett and Spencer were both typically developing. So it may take time. Just hang in there. And also, you're working on other skills. You're working on sitting, imitating, matching, puzzle, building, joint attention, receptive language, touching body parts. So you're working on so many other things in addition to expressive language. So all of those things will, will come together. And imitation and getting echoic control are two big ones. We have video blogs on. We can link those on the show notes, but just keep hanging in there. Just because the table is not yet producing echoics and a major explosion of expressive language doesn't mean that you're not making progress in other areas. And if you're not making progress with table time, then that's probably a problem with your reinforcement. You're sanitizing the room. Start with the one page assessment and plan. Start with the language samples. Start with at least reading my book and if not diving into the online courses and community because it's one of the best ways to make the most progress in the shortest amount of time.

Kelsey: Yeah, I would agree with everything you said there and consistency and patience and not acting super frustrating at the table even if you are, because that can be discouraging for everyone involved, including the child. I also think sometimes you have to be creative. I mean, I've seen some kids who like the only word they say away from the table is like star and star. So then at the table you might have a picture of a star, or you might sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. You know, a lot of kids like songs and we'll often say songs with you. And so or there's some kids who only know their numbers, even though we never taught them. And so you might I'm not saying have your whole shoebox with numbers, but like you might have a couple numbers here and there just so they learn. Oh, I already know. Five. And when mom says five and I say five, I get the five. Maybe if I say cow, I'll get the cow. You know, there's some kind of building what we call momentum if the child is saying anything outside of the table.

Mary: Yeah. And that reminds me of a recent podcast, 174 with Grandma Tina, Wyatt has some pop out words. So I said, make sure you have apple, moon, bee, you know, in your shoebox in two pictures of balls so that for matching you know I said to her build in song time because there's a lot of kids that will fill in the blanks to songs like, twinkle, twinkle. And I also said, since he can say bee and he can say one. And those are one syllable words. Go ahead and do the puzzles with ABC. One, two, three. And you know, if a child is interested in numbers, letters, colors, shapes, we'll use it to our advantage. Not that we want to, like you said, just fill the whole shoe box with pre-academic, not really all that functional, but we want to get echoics. We want to get happiness at the table. We want to get happiness away from the table. And if those things every day they're leaving you clues as to what they say or what they do and what's reinforcing to them. So keep that all in mind as you plan your next table time.

Kelsey: Yeah, that wraps up our questions and I think we've really dove into all the questions people have every day. And so I think this is a great resource for anyone who is looking to start table time or to pair up really everything we've said you can use to pair up any situation.

Mary: Yes, definitely. Well, hopefully we convinced you the table time is the way to go. For more information about joining our online course community, which is really where people can, like I said, make the most gains because if it doesn't work, I remember Kelsey kept questioning her child and said her child wouldn't do Potato Head. I remember other people questioning, you know, it's like we can help you troubleshoot. And I know we say demands are too high, reinforcements too low, but like each child is so different. So having that community support is great. So if you want to learn more about possibly joining us in our online course or community, you know attend a free workshop MaryBarbera.com/workshop. I hope you enjoyed the top five questions about table time. We're going to do this for other subjects coming down the line maybe once a month, once every two months, something like that. And if you did love it, if you would leave us a review wherever you're listening to this podcast. Thanks so much for joining us today, Kelsey. You're a big help and you just completed three podcasts in a row. So hopefully our listeners have loved hearing from you and your wisdom. So thanks so much. Thank you. All right. We'll you here next week for another episode of Turn Autism Around. Have a good one until then.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a free online workshop at MaryBarbera.com/workshop where you can learn how to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again go to MaryBarbera.com/workshop for all the details. I hope to see you there.