Activities for Children With Autism
Our whole life is solving puzzles. ~Erno Rubik
The above quote is brilliant: because it’s true!
Individuals on the autism spectrum, like all people everywhere, have puzzles and challenges to solve in their lives. Neurotypicals also have challenges. For AS people, however, the challenges may be different: how to navigate the social world, how to deal with sensory challenges, how to manage the stress that arises from the unpredictability of living with NT’s. The list goes on.
I’ve wanted, for a while, to research games and tools that can help autism spectrum people and their families develop those problem solving skills.
The list below comprises some helpful resources that can help you.
Kids speak through play. When children on the autism spectrum play, they improve their motor skills, language skills, and social kills by moving their bodies and interacting with their environment. It can be challenging, however, to engage kids on the autism spectrum in play.
Pediatric occupational therapist Tara Delaney provides the answer. In 101 Games and Activities for Children with Autism, Asperger’s, and Sensory Processing Disorders, she shows you how to teach your children by moving their bodies through play. These interactive games are quick to learn but will provide hours of fun and learning for your child. And many of the games can be played indoors or outdoors, so your child can enjoy them at home, outside, or on field trips.
This resource has more than one hundred games that can help your child:
- make eye-contact, stay focused, and strengthen his or her motor skills
- associate words with objects and improve language and numerical skills
- learn how to interact with others, how to take turns, and other social skills needed for attending preschool and school
Tara Delaney M.S., OTR, is the Executive Director of Steps Therapy Inc., specializing in sensory integration, autism, ADHD, learning disabilities, as well as social skills development.
One of the key success skills any child needs to learn is emotional intelligence: the ability to understand and master her/his emotions, versus being mastered by the emotions As we all know, living on the autism spectrum in a social world can produce a lot of stress. Dr. Mark Jones developed the concept of teaching cognitive and behavioral skills to children by way of animated animals.
Here are some of the skills you child can learn:
- Breathing skills to help with sleep, anger, tantrums, and frustrations
- Distraction skills to help aid focus and to break cycles
- Relaxation skills to help reduce anxiety
- Positive affirmations to increase self esteem
I’ve written about social stories as a promising way of teaching children on the autism spectrum. At Make Belief Comix, children and adults can create their own comic strip stories. It’s a lot of fun, and I can see how one could incorporate the principles of a social story in any comic designed there.
Fun and Function’s Blue Weighted Compression Vest Having read Temple Grandin’s story and her struggles with sensory related stress, I’ve been aware of the benefits of vests as described here:
Our 2 in 1 weighted compression vest is made to calm and provide steady proprioceptive input, as the combined pressure and weight functions as a reassuring deep hug. Weights are safely positioned in pockets inside the vest and can be added or removed. Deep pressure can be intensified or removed as the tightness can be altered via Hook and Loop closures at the trunk and shoulders. Machine washable.
Many children on the autism spectrum struggle with chewing on pens, paper or even their own clothing. These pencil toppers are a great solution for teachers and children alike. Here’s a quote describing this sensory tool:
The Sensory University has created an all new pencil topper using its top selling Chew Stixx Product. If your child bites, chews, or grinds, give them something safe to chew on. The Chew Stixx Pencil Topper fits any number 2 pencil, decreases lead exposure, is safe for teeth, is socially acceptable, is allowed in classrooms, increases attention, lowers anxiety levels, and has been proven to improve concentration skills in children constantly seeking sensory input. Excellent for streamline and special needs children. Package includes one smooth and one knobby surfaced topper. Not for use with children under 4 years of age.
The Big Top Game is designed for individuals with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (PDD) and Non Verbal Learning Disabilities (NVLD).
The three most common disorders in the PDD group are Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, and PDD not otherwise specified (NOS).
The game is designed additionally to help those who care for and interact with these individuals by helping them gain understanding, develop empathy, and improve interpersonal relationships with the individuals. Players who can benefit include individuals with the disorders, parents, siblings, and friends.
The learning objectives are:
- increasing interpersonal and communication skills
- learning empathy
- improving skills in expressing feelings
- improving self-esteem
- developing more insight into themselves and their condition
The Big Top Game has been developed with special attention to the needs and learning styles of PDD and NVLD children. In order to carry out this goal, the game employs: (1) Effective Sensory Stimuli, (2) Behavioral Reinforcement, (3) Social/emotional development, and (4) Educational skills development. The theme of the game is that the animals have escaped from the circus, and the players have to work together to rescue them and return them to the circus. . Grades 1-6 and older children when appropriate.
So there you have some of my ‘wishlist’ activities, games, and tools for children on the autism spectrum.
photo credit: Willow&Monk: Girl Contemplates the World
This is an incomplete list. I made it incomplete on purpose, because I’d like to you to contribute your favorite games, activities and tools for children on the autism spectrum. Share them in the comments!