Posted in aba, antecedent based intervention, applied behavior analysis, asd, autism, behavior technician, imitation, parent training, rbt, reinforcement

Teaching Eye Contact with Face Painting

face paint, store bought or homemade. (We’ll show you how.)

One creative way to increase your child’s eye contact is by painting each other’s faces. Imagine the smile on your child’s face when it’s colorfully painted into their favorite character or animal. While you are painting your child’s face, you will naturally be giving each other eye contact. You can offer to paint fancy eye lashes coming out from the corner of your child’s eyes or make a circle of little stars around each eye. This allows for even more opportunity for your child to comfortably look at your face and eyes.

Find out more about teaching children with ASD at ATCConline.com

If you’re extra brave, give your child a chance to paint your face as well. This will create twice the opportunity for your child to practice eye contact and will also be twice as fun! For younger children, you can sit facing each other and play Pat-a-cake type clapping games or Peek-a-boo while making sure to hold your hands in front of your face to increase your child’s naturally occurring eye contact. Some children may not enjoy the feeling of paint on their face and hands and you may want to opt for playing with toy glasses, noses, masks or just making silly faces at each other. Your child will be experiencing silliness and laughter while practicing this crucial skill.

Why This Activity Works
Eye contact is a foundational social skill for all children. It is essential because eye contact is necessary for success with other social skills, learning activities, and for a child to safely interact in the world around them.  Looking at a person’s face gives us many important social clues and is important to communication because it allows us to read facial expressions and lip patterns. These facial clues are often extra important for children who have difficulty learning and using language. Fun games like face painting can be used to help children with ASD feel more comfortable using eye contact.


I recommend using washable paint that can be purchased at any local craft store. DIY – You and your child can easily make face paint together at home by mixing corn starch, face lotion, natural food coloring, and a dab of vegetable oil. Creating the paint yourself allows for even more enjoyable social interaction between you and your child.

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Imitation Training: The Basics

Copy That!

Imitation: the act of mimicing, copying or using someone as a model for behavior.

From very early in life, babies learn by imitation. It comes naturally to them. A baby imitates the way her mommy reads to her, she picks a book up and flips through the pages, babbling away. A baby imitates the way her daddy sips his coffee, saying ‘ahh’ after pretending to drink from her plastic tea cup. A baby imitates the way her sister picks her nose. She even imitates the dog, as she crawls on all fours to the dog bowl and gives the food a taste. Yes, we’ve all heard it, watch what you say and do around a child, because the child will say and do the same.

On the other hand, this is often times not the case with children with autism. Imitation skills is a deficit for individuals on the Autism Spectrum, which contributes significantly to their difficulty with learning. If your unable to imitate actions of others, you can not readily learn skills such as play, social interaction, language and daily living. Nor can you pick up behavior patterns or be easily prompted to do something correctly.

Imitation is a building block skill, therefore it should be one of the very first skills taught to a child with autism in their Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program, that is if they do not possess ability to imitate already. A method called ‘Imitation Training’ is often used to do this.

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When it is established that a child is ready for Imitation Training, a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Therapist will run the program using these three basic parts:

1) An RBT demonstrates the behavior they want their client to perform while giving instructions such as “Do this”
2) The client is assisted or prompted to do the same behavior
3) The RBT delivers reinforcment such as a food, toys or activity the child enjoys immediately

Gradually the prompts are faded and the client learns to independently imitate their therapist. It’s important make sure this skill is then worked on with family and peers, so it is may be used in their daily life.


Imitation Training doesn’t have to remain such a dry activity though, there are many fun ways to work on imitation that you’ll remember from childhood. Here’s a few to try out!

Children’s Song: Children with autism often love music, use this to your advantage and teach them to imitate the actions you are doing while singing a song such as ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ and ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”

Simon Says: This can become a great imitation game if Simon performs each action while giving the verbal direction or if a peer joins in on the fun your client can be prompted to mimic his/her friend.

Follow the Leader: Make a human train, push the child in a wagon or simply hold hands on a tour of their environment. Make frequent stops to perform an action, then have them imitate it. Here are some examples: knock at the door, push in a chair, jump in place, pick a flower, give a parent a high five. The options are endless.

Learn about more ways to educate children with autism. Better yet, become an expert in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Join the growing career field for RBT Autism Therapists. It’s easier than you think, just let Autism Therapy Career College, a quick and inexpensive vocational school, lead the way!

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