Play to Grow! Autism Awareness Interview with Tali Field Berman

Autism Awareness day was on April 2nd.  The entire month of April is dedicated to raising awareness of autism.

Creative play promotes a physically healthy brain.

As the number of children diagnosed with autism climbs—it is now one in 50 according to the CDC—it is more important than ever to be aware of autism: How it affects your community and what autism means for both the autistic child and the autistic adult.

The BEDROK (Body Ecology Diet Recovering Our Kids) program evolved from a community of parents seeking answers and getting results. While the Body Ecology Diet emphasizes the value of diet and probiotic-rich foods, when it comes to managing autism there is no silver bullet.

Recovery is unique to each child and multi-faceted.

Both parents of the BEDROK community and educators of children with autism or on the autism spectrum understand that reaching those with autism involves what Tali Field Berman calls “the magical combination.”

Yes, recovery is a possibility for children with autism. Parents and caregivers may see success by rehabilitating children through internal healing, minimizing external distractions, and using playtime learning to improve communication.

This means:

  • Minimizing external distractions
  • Healing internal distractions, such as poor digestion
  • Using play to learn with your child

According to Tali Field Berman, founder of Meir Autism Treatment Center and co-author of Play to Grow! 200 Games Designed to Help Your Special Needs Child Develop Fundamental Social Skills, “There is no question that fun based play combined with a clean diet will make the biggest impact on your child’s development.”

“In my 15 years of experience working with children with autism, diets that are primarily gluten/casein/soy/preservative and additive free and rich in probiotics (such as the BED) have made the biggest impact on propelling a child’s development forward.”

Having Spontaneous Fun Is the Best Way to Grow

In a recent interview with Body Ecology, Tali explains:

“It is a common belief that repetitive drills will help a child with autism develop important social and communication skills. Because of this belief, children on the autism spectrum are often directed to sit at a table and repeat exercises and perhaps receive a motivating reinforcement when the work is done.

What is the result of this type of therapy for a child with autism? Can a child learn important life skills this way?

The answer is yes – but in a very limited way. Learning done this way is often robotic and because the child is not fully engaged and internalizing what he is learning, the skill he is learning is often not generalized or used in a way that is both natural and spontaneous.

This is crucial for a child with autism whose primary challenge is forming relationships.

Successful relationships cannot be developed by applying a set of scripted rules. Rather, successful relationships can only be cultivated by a sincere desire to interact and apply social and communication skills that have been learned in a meaningful way.

The key factor in helping a child learn skills that he will then use, long term, in a natural and spontaneous way is FUN. By fun, I mean using a key motivation (specific to each child) in play.

Brain research suggests that fun is not just beneficial to learning but, by many reports, required for authentic learning and long-term memory. Fun actually seems to promote learning. It increases dopamine, endorphins, and oxygen—which leads to optimal brain activation, more attentiveness and longer retention of information.

What this tells us is that play based on each child’s motivations is key in helping a child with autism learn in an in-depth and meaningful way, which in turn is key in cultivating successful relationships.”

Using Play and Diet to Grow

When it comes to developing learning games that will stimulate your child in a natural and spontaneous way, Tali suggests: 

  • Identify your child’s motivations
  • Prioritize 3-4 goals for your child
  • Play in an environment that is free of distractions
  • Pay attention to cues that you receive from your child

Spontaneous play not only benefits the child—it also benefits parents and caregivers. Creative play promotes a physically healthy brain. It has the potential to stimulate new solutions to old problems.

As Albert Einstein once put it, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” In other words, to reach answers or change a situation, you must first step outside of it.

When looking at diet, The BEDROK community suggests making changes for the whole family since children often follow the example set by their parents.

With flexibility and spontaneity, many parents reach levels of communication with their child that go beyond their expectations. They are able to teach their child. And together, both child and parents find themselves discovering new ways to think, grow, and live.

When we get creative with our children, we are sometimes forced to get creative with ourselves.

To learn more about Tali Field Berman, visit her website at: www.meirautism.org or pick up her book, Play to Grow! 200 Games Designed to Help Your Special Needs Child Develop Fundamental Social Skills. 

What To Remember Most About This Article:

In honor of Autism Awareness day in April, we will explore the benefits of creative play to stimulate learning in an interview with Tali Field Berman, founder of Meir Autism Treatment Center and co-author of Play to Grow! 200 Games Designed to Help Your Special Needs Child Develop Fundamental Social Skills. 

Autism awareness is more important than ever before as the number of children diagnosed with the condition continues to grow. Recovery is unique and may involve minimizing external distractions, healing internal distractions, and playing to learn with your child.

Spontaneous play can benefit a child, parents, and caregivers. Creative play can be used to stimulate brain health and teach children how to find new solutions to old problems. Parents can use play to better communicate with an autistic child and work together to think, grow, and live.

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