Activities can be used as a bridge between a child with autism and his environment. They increase social skills and strengthen the bond between the child and his caretakers, therapist and peers. They promote learning by using functional language and concentration, helping to develop these skills to be used in other situations. Since children with autism have certain limitations, they may not benefit from all types of activities, which is why it is good to have a variety of ideas to try out on your child
Fun Activities for Children with Autism
Many activities for children with autism are identical to activities for typical children. With a little thought, you can create engaging sessions that look and feel like playtime.
Many activities engage the senses to help your chilld oversome stimulatory deficits.
- I Spy - This activity helps your child focus on a description or follow a point to find an object. Describe the object in as much detail as you can, then have your child point to it in the room. For children with more severe processing issues, you can describe one of two objects and have the child choose the correct one.
- Box O' Beans - Fill a large plastic tub with sensory beads or dried beans from the grocery store. Place small toys throughout and have your child place her hands in the box to pull out desired objects. This will help your child with texture and touch issues.
- Guessing Game - Have your child close his eyes and hand him a simple object or toy, like a block or a cup. Tell him to feel the object and have him describe it to you (if he is verbal). If your child is non-verbal, have him show you a picture of the object after he opens his eyes. This game helps children use senses other than vision to learn about the world around them.
- Scented bubbles - Work on oral motor skills while engaging visual, tactile and olfactory senses
Songs and Poems
Children often like the singsong nature of poems or the repetition of verses in a song. You can make up songs to teach children how to dress or feed themselves, or use a favorite song as a reward after a child does a less desirable (but necessary) activity. You can also incorporate physical activities into songs, like jumping, skipping or hopping. Some excellent song choices are:
- Itsy Bitsy Spider
- Red Light, Green Light
- Clean Up Song
- Are You Sleeping?
Art is a wonderful way for autistic children to express how they feel, especially those that are no-verbal. The following activities can help children learn concepts and express emotions, as well as deal with certain sensory issues.
- Finger Painting - Messy but fun, finger painting can help children learn about colors and provide an opportunity to discover new textures through touch.
- Draw My Face - Have your child draw a large circle on a piece of paper. You can demonstrate a variety of emotions through your facial expressions. Have your child draw the face you are making and assist her in labeling the emotions, like happy, sad or angry.
Physical activity enhances coordination, expels pent up energy, while being educational and teaching social skills.
- Dance Party - Put on your favorite music and have an impromptu dance party. This is a great way for children to learn about rhythm, counting and develop physical coordination.
- Puppet Show - Make sock puppets or use your child's dolls and come up with a fun theme to act out. By having a puppet show, you can teach emotions and social skills through role play. This is a great activity to do before a major life event such as moving or starting school. It helps children understand how situations play out before they happen so they know what to expect.
Autistic children need challenging but fun activities they can participate on a daily basis. Should they be expected to participate in all of the activities that other children engage in? Of course not, but there are numerous activities for autistic children to enjoy. Before you expect your autistic child or student to jump right into the latest activity, consider the following:
- Participants - Who else is participating in this activity? Is it the whole class, one or two students, or is this an individual activity? If you expect several students to perform the activity together, choose the group members wisely. Look for children that will be especially helpful to the autistic child. Be sure to monitor all of the participants, and be on the lookout for children who might try to ridicule the child with autism.
- Activity level - What type of activity will the child be participating in? Will the child need to have good coordination skills? Will it put him at a continuous disadvantage next to the other children? Does it require skills that he doesn't have or hasn't had the opportunity or time to learn?
- Potential problems - Are there any potential problems that might occur with the activity? For example, will the noise level be increased? Excessive noise can often be troublesome for children with autism. While the activity might be organized, will the intensity of it be a disturbance for the child, causing him a high level of stress? Is physical contact a necessary factor of the game? If so, this might also present a problem as some autistic people tend to shy away from or become extremely disturbed by prolonged physical contact.
- Address specific goals - Consider toys and games that are specifically designed to engage kids on the autism spectrum because they can address specific goals. For example, help children recognize emotions through picture books, online games and plush toys.
Engaging the Autistic Child
Activities for autistic children should be fun and engaging, but if they become a source of frustration, the benefits of the action may be lost. Autistic children may not know exactly what their interests and favorite activities might be, so it is up to the parent to introduce them to several areas of interest.
Once your child discovers a new hobby, he probably won't be shy about letting you know what he wants to do. Encourage him as much as possible, and let him participate with others when possible. This is an excellent way to encourage him to work on a particular skill or activity while honing his social skills