Activities for Autistic Children
"Can you please offer some activities for autistic children that they can do at home or at school? We are looking at two age groups here 7 – 10 and 11-16."
Parents, teachers, and other caregivers often get so caught up in educating and
providing structure to the lives of autistic children that they forget that,
above all, he or she is a child. Like any other child in his or her age group,
your autistic child wants to have fun. While some activities may not be suitable
for those suffering from autism, there are a number of fun games and activities
autistic children, many of which can get them involved with others or help them
further develop motor or social skills while just focusing on having a good
Autistic children in the elementary school age range can benefit greatly from
song. Even children who do not verbally communicate with words can learn to hum
along or play simple instruments, such as tambourines or whistles. Using sounds
that are repetitive and with educational lyrics helps autistic children learn
school lessons but also gives them an outlet for some of the sensory stimulation
they need, such as yelling. Play follow the leader with the instruments to help
the children focus their attention and improve socialization skills.
Depending on how mature your child is, he or she may also not only be able to
participate in regular childhood games, but greatly benefit from them as well.
These activities, including tag and other games, can be learned more easily than
you think. Stick with games in which the autistic child is not forced to have
close physical contact with other children, as this may be hurtful for autistic
individuals. Also, remember to play to your child’s strengths or what he or she
wishes to learn. If he or she has a problem with yelling inappropriately, for
example, encouraging him or her to be involved with a game of hide and seek may
help curb this behavior.
Autistic children often wish to be included in games with non-autistic peers,
and so this may help with the learning process. At home, focus on games that
involve closer contact with trusted family members. For example, make it a game
to get across the room without touching the floor. Perhaps the only route in
some instances is to be carried. Remember that each child is different
developmentally, so stay in tune with how challenging the activities should be.
As your child matures, he or she may want to be involved with organized sports.
This should be encouraged, but choose your sport carefully. Golf, baseball, and
other sports that do not involve strong personal sensory stimulation may be
better for your child than something like tackle football. However, be open to
all possibilities. Be sure the team’s coach understands your child’s disability
and is willing to work with him or her.
At this later developmental stage, also continue encouraging learning
activities. Sensory games work well to further teach these children, and as they
mature emphasize the importance of appropriate behavior as you are playing these
games. Using things like water balloons in games your child already enjoys is
often as fun for children with autism. Also realize that an autistic individual
has trouble seeing things from another’s point of view. Therefore, they may be
less likely to enjoy games in which something must be kept a secret from another
person (like go-fish).
Overall, you and your child need to grow together. Remember that although he or
she has many special needs, sometimes your child needs to simply be a kid as
well. Encourage play along with work, and realize that games and activities for
autistic children may fulfill two key elements, socialization skills for life
and learning to enjoy playing with their peers.
Related Resources and Further Reading
- Related online resources for professionals, parents, and families of children with Autism.
The Autistic Brain: Helping Different Kinds of Minds Succeed
- Temple Grandin introduces the advances in neuroimaging and genetic research that link brain science to behavior, even sharing her own brain scan to show which anomalies might explain common symptoms.
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Children Page & Return To The Autism And Sensory Integration Page
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