Dr. James MacDonald 332 Mimring Columbus, Ohio 43202 Phone/Fax 614 447-0768 macdonaldj86@gmail.com

Communicating Partners

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Helping Parents Help Children. Programs for Parents, Therapists & Educators

My Child's Interactive Life

What does your child need to do to become interactive?


  1. Notices the presence of others
  2. Allows people in his presence
  3. nitiates contact with people
  4. Responds to others’ contacts
  5. Joins in others’ activities
  6. Seeks out or invites others for contact
  7. Prefers being with people than alone
  8. Plays parallel with people
  9. Plays reciprocally or back and forth with people
  10. Stays voluntarily in interactions
  11. Actively keeps others interacting with him


  1. Tries to act in ways others do
  2. Imitates others immediately
  3. Imitates others at a later time
  4. Imitates others emotions
  5. Learns by observing others
  6. Imitates actions
  7. Imitates sounds or words
  8. Imitates from media (e.g. TV, video, computer)
  9. Plays alone in ways that he has seen other play
  10. Invites others to imitate him


  1. Play in a give and take manner
  2. Takes turns with actions
  3. Takes turns with sounds
  4. Takes turns with words
  5. Waits for others to take a turn
  6. Stays in 2-4 turn exchanges
  7. Stays in extended turn taking (more than 4 turns)
  8. Offers or signals to take a turn
  9. Responds appropriately to partner’s turns
  10. Stays interacting longer when requested


  1. Ignores people
  2. Avoids or resists people
  3. Prefers being alone to being with people
  4. Rarely acts in ways that others act
  5. Appears self-absorbed
  6. Rarely takes turns with others
  7. Dominates interactions with others
  8. Plays a passive, non-responsive role in interactions
  9. Reacts emotionally when others interact with him

What you can do to help your child be more interactive


The following are ways you can help your child to interact with people more.

  1. Select first the ones that come most easily for you.
  2. Increase them and watch how your child responds.
  3. If certain ones seem uncomfortable, do not push yourself.
  4. There are many different ways to be effective.
  5. Try new strategies when little is happening with your child.
  6. Determine your success by observing your child interacting and enjoying people more.
  7. The goal is for your child to gradually interact with you more frequently and for longer times.
  8. Be patient and feel energized by every new interaction.
  9. It may seem small for you, but it can be a big step for your child.


  1. Accept your child’s actions as meaningful to him.
  2. Physically join into your child’s activity
  3. Respond to your child’s actions
  4. Respond to your child’s sounds and other nonverbal communications
  5. Understand what is meaningful for your child.
  6. Respond without judgment or criticism.
  7. Act like your child, then wait for a response.


  1. Act in ways your child can try to do.
  2. Communicate nonverbally in ways your child can do.
  3. Talk in ways your child can try to do.
  4. Communicate about your child’s activity
  5. Show your child a next developmental step.
  6. Expect behaviors your child can do.
  7. Avoid expecting the impossible.


  1. Do about as much as your child in play together.
  2. Do one thing then wait for your child to respond.
  3. Take turns with actions.
  4. Take turns with sounds.
  5. Take turns with words.
  6. Allow silence so your child can respond.
  7. Act reciprocally; respond meaningfully to what your child does.
  8. Insist on taking your turn if your child dominates the time.
  9. Keep turn taking exchanges going a little longer.
  10. Interact more like a ping-pong game than darts.


  1. Make sure your child has clear effects on you.
  2. Change your behavior until you have effects on your child.
  3. Share the agenda or direction of the interaction.
  4. Make the interaction more playful than task-oriented.
  5. Follow the child’s lead about half the time.
  6. Take the lead about half the time.
  7. Limit directions and commands to less than 20% of your behavior.
  8. Limit questions to less than 20% of your talk.


  1. Find ways to enjoy your child.
  2. Make sure your child has successes.
  3. Make interactions relaxed and unstressful.
  4. Accept what the child is doing and join his activity.
  5. Interact in flexible not rigid ways.
  6. Be animated.
  7. Be more interesting than the child’s distractions.
  8. Play in the way your child plays.
  9. Do more of whatever behavior gets your child’s attention.
  10. Show your child that you genuinely enjoy playing.
  11. Express affection.
  12. Laugh and smile authentically.
  13. Touch your child warmly.

Next: Nonverbal Communication

Dr. James MacDonald 332 Mimring Columbus, Ohio 43202 Phone/Fax (614)447-0768 macdonaldj86@gmail.com