Incidental teaching is an important part of learning for all children, including children with ASD. Incidental teaching allows you to take advantage of natural learning opportunities through things such as play, social skills and communication. At The Lighthouse Learning and Development Centre we are constantly using incidental teaching throughout programs and activities.

Incidental teaching during play can be extremely beneficial in teaching functional play, social skills and appropriate play language. Functional play can be taught through naturally modeling how to play with toys and encouraging and reinforcing appropriate play. For example, modelling how to play with toy cars by rolling them down a ramp or making them race. At The Lighthouse Learning and Development Center we often use guided play and recess as a way to develop these play skills and often incorporate fine and gross motor skills into this. We also use these opportunities to develop social skills.

 Social skills can naturally be taught within play by modelling how to play with peers, and teaching important social skills that can be generalized to multiple aspects of the children’s lives. This can include asking peers to “come play,” making eye contact, attending to their peers, and responding appropriately to things their peers say. Appropriate play language can be modelled through play, and this can also transition to non-play based skills. For example, if a child is playing with dolls we can model how to use language from the dolls perspective, which can also be beneficial in understanding different perspectives in everyday life.

 Incidental teaching can help teach and develop language and communication skills in verbal and nonverbal children. It is important to take opportunities to model what a child could say in different situations to help develop their abilities to communicate their thoughts and feelings. Modelling language in the same way the child would communicate is also important, for example, if the child uses a device, we model the words through the device, showing them how they could say something. At Lighthouse Learning we try to take advantage of opportunities to model appropriate language and we also encourage parents to do so as well. We encourage kids to use their words in whichever way they communicate and we help them in finding appropriate words and sentences to express themselves, answer questions and to communicate their wants, needs and feelings.

 Incidental teaching is a simple yet very important way of teaching children different skills. Taking advantage of natural opportunities to model different skills not only teaches them how to do or communicate something but teaches them the context they can use those skills in appropriately.

By: Marissa Fleming, Instructor Therapist at The Lighthouse