Children with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) have unique gifts and challenges. As the guest expert for the MN Organization of FAS on Wednesday, March 28, 2012, I addressed parents’ concerns regarding their children’s poor auditory comprehension and memory capabilities. These challenges impair one’s ability to follow directions in the home, do well at school and successfully connect in relationships. An enjoyable way to stimulate the brain for comprehending and retaining information is to play “obstacle course”.
“Obstacle Course” is a game where you give your child one- or multiple-step directions using the natural objects in your home environment. My directions always have a “home-base”, which is simply a designated spot on the rug that your child sits on at the start and end of each turn. It is a key part of the game because it provides built-in structure so that your child has the security of knowing exactly where he needs to be. This routine predictability will build his confidence for success.
After establishing a home-base it is important to explain the rules of “obstacle course” to your child:
- Always start and end at home-base.
- First listen to the fun direction I give. Only move when I say, “Go.”
- Next follow the direction and come back to home-base. (For added language benefit, have your child verbally explain what he just did.)
- After completing the direction successfully we switch places and you give me a fun direction. I wait until you say, “Go.” Then I do it and come back. When I return to home-base I will tell you what I just did.
An obstacle course always starts with a one-step direction and builds by one additional step only when your child is able to complete that level with ease and only one extra reminder. In the living room, a one-step direction might be, “Touch the couch and come back.” A two-step direction might be, “Turn on the lamp, crawl over the chair and come back.” A three-step direction might be, “Crawl to the T.V., hide the remote under the coffee table, touch the window and come back.” For greater success add visual cues by pointing to where your child is supposed to go.
Obstacle course games stimulate auditory comprehension, attention and memory skills. They help children practice following directions in a way that will activate the whole body and brain. “Turning on” the brain through a playful activity makes learning fun and teaches the brain to remember how to “turn on” so it can be successful in other situations. Test this out when you go to the grocery store by instructing him to, “grab a bag of apples and come back to the cart.” Processing and remembering auditory directions opens the door to a bright, independent future!