Therapeutic Home Activities with Non-Speaking Children - Part I

Jackie Bartell, Educational Consultant, DIR/Floortime Expert Provider

Successful Days at Home with Non-Speaking Children

Jackie Bartell expert DIR/Floortime provider, educator and teacher from ICDL, who is a long time STAR colleague and friend, shares some ideas with us on spending time at home with our kiddos, especially thinking about children and young people who are non-speaking.

This blog post is part one in a two part series. The second part is here and features Jennifer RO, CCC-SLP and expert in AAC from Georgia.

Long Days at Home

Having a child at home 24/7 is challenging, it can feel even harder when that child is non-speaking and you can't 'explain' why things are different. It's a big challenge and my first piece of advice is to remind people that we are suddenly being put into place as parents where there is a lot of pressure to do, to teach, to do things.

Permission to Parent 

One of the thoughts that I really want to give parents is that it makes much more sense to think now about trying to be with our children. The best doing that we can we can do is by being with our child and being in the moment. 

I think the other piece that's pretty critical right now is that we have a lot of pressure as parents from social media and everything that's out there that we have to be the teachers for our children. I really want to encourage all of us as parents to remember that we should be our child's parent. Right now what we have to do more of is to focus on being with our children and having magical moments with them because our own stress, and their stress of changed routines is is creating an uncomfortable atmosphere in our in our homes. So I really want to encourage people to leave this notion that we have to be the teacher aside and remember that first we have to be the parent and our best tool as parents of our children in general, and more specifically of our children who are non-speaking, is to share moments with them. Sharing a moment means to just, have this experience together and if you know your child is looking out the window now then let's look out the window together and share in the joy of the rain that's falling or the Sun that's out or the leaves that happen to be blowing here at my window. That will help our child feel peaceful but it will also help us feel peaceful.

Two Tips for Extended Periods of Time at Home with Your Non-Speaking Child

  1. First start with ten minutes in the morning when there's nothing else happening in your world. You've forgotten about about your telephone, you've forgotten about social media, you've forgotten about all of those pieces and you're going to just share with your child whatever it is that they they have found to be satisfying or pleasurable. You're going to share in that moment with them just for 10 minutes and then after after those 10 minutes you're going to go back to what you're doing and you're going to let your child continue pursuing whatever it is that they're pursuing.
    That's critical and making sure that it's short, not long, to start with but short because you have to take your own self into consideration too.
    Do this 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes in the in the late morning, 10 minutes after lunch. Then you can grow that as you and your child have those moments of pleasure together. Share in everything in these times, whatever your child is interesting, find the joy in it no matter how simple it may seem to you.
  2. Think about having those moments where you are not using words either because sometimes what happens to us when we're trying to organize our thoughts is that we start using a lot more language. Which is overwhelming in itself, and then we can get dysregulated too and when we are feeling dysregulated or uncomfortable that's not helpful and especially for our children who are non speaking. Look after yourself and your calm and join the child in their space.

For another great Jackie Bartell resources check out Affect Autism: 

STAR Institute is a 501(c)(3) and the Covid-19 situation has hit us hard. Help us do more, serve more and reach more people.
If you are in a position to help please consider a $20 donation today: Donate Now

ICDL Logooffers wonderful resources for families - check out their website at