Children on the autism spectrum can learn many valuable skills through play. Each game, whether it is a board game, puzzles, group games, or organized sports, lends itself to life lessons that will benefit many children that have been diagnosed with autism.
Here are some of the important lessons that playing will teach your child:
- Listing and following directions – All games have rules that need to be followed and if these rules are ignored, then there are consequences such as disqualification or ridicule from others. By playing board games or participating in organized sports, your child on the spectrum will learn to follow directions, take turns, share and learn how to play well with others.
- Social Skills – Important social skills can be learned and practiced through games and play. These are skills that are essential for developing friendships and learning to work with others. Teaching your child that has been diagnosed with autism to be kind, play fair, shake your opponent’s hand, use eye contact when speaking to others, and to collaborate with others while playing a game or working on a project, are valuable lessons your child can carry with them throughout their lives.
- Academics – Games are a great way to get your child on the spectrum to learn to read, count, add, subtract, learn to put things in sequences etc. Whether the actual game is educational or not, you can turn any game into a source of learning. Have your child read the rules of the game out loud, have them count game pieces or cards, dots on dice or the number of times they throw a ball etc. All of this is practice that is crucial in learning important academic skills.
- Problem Solving – Building blocks, sports and many board games give children the opportunity to learn problem solving skills. When you give your child on the spectrum the opportunity to try things on their own before providing them assistance they will learn to figure out how to overcome struggles.
- Conflict Resolution – Games are a great way to teach your child conflict resolution skills. Many times your child on the spectrum will get frustrated when they lose a game or when they don’t get their way. By teaching your child the importance of team work, listening to others and taking deep breathes to calm themselves before allowing their emotions to get the best of them, you help your child on the spectrum establish order and manage/resolve conflicts.
There are so many great skills your children can learn from playing. So now that you know how much your child on the spectrum can learn from playing games, go enjoy some quality time with your children and see how much they will learn and grow through games and organized sports.
There are a variety of ways to increase communication, depending on your child’s age and verbal ability. Two of the best ways in increase language skills is to be a role model and to create situations that promote language. Children learn from the adults around them. When you speak to your child on the spectrum, use full and complete sentences, correct grammar and make sure to articulate your words. If you think your child doesn’t understand a word you are using, repeat it and explain its meaning to them.
Creating situations to promote language is also a great way to increase communications with your child. Use their favorite toys, clothes, and food to motivate them to speak. Make sure they can see these items but can’t reach them so that they have to ask for them. Asking them questions about the items they want is also a great way to work with them to improve their language skills.
Giving your child on the spectrum choices in activities, books, toys etc. will allow them to communicate their preferences and will also create an opportunity to increase the use of language, even if you already know what they will pick.
Reading to your child is also an excellent way to incorporate language. Ask them questions about the story and the pictures in the book. Have them predict what is going to happen. After your finish the story, review it with them, ask them what they liked about the story and what they didn’t like. When your child answers your questions make sure they are speaking in complete sentences. If they are only using two to three words to describe something, increase their sentence length by repeating their answer with an expanded phrase.
It is very important to be supportive of your child who has been diagnosed with autism. Children are more likely to communicate if they feel valued. Make sure to listen attentively when they speak to you and ask questions in order to continue the conversation. Lastly, make sure you find time to communicate with your child. Putting your phones away, turning off the TV or computers and dedicating time to just talk is the best way to encourage communication at home. Make your child feel as if their day and their experiences matter. Use the time you are at the dinner table or in the car to learn about what they did, what they learned, and what they want. It’s the perfect way to increase communication and language skills.
We all have hectic schedules and come home tired and stressed after a long day. Many fall into a routine and have a hard time getting out of it, but we at Beautiful Minds Center believe that it is important to make time and find energy for fun and educational family activities. Finding activities that will help your child on the spectrum learn new skills and allow you to experience new things together as a family can be challenging, so here are some ideas that we came up with and wanted to share with all of you.
- Giving to Charity – teaching your child to be generous, to share and to give to others is a very important skill. Practice giving by teaching your child to donate clothes, toys, or even canned goods to charities. Make it a charity you feel your child will connect with. If the charity is asking for new items, encourage your child on the spectrum to pick a new toy or piece of clothing; and teach them to part with it in order to help someone less fortunate. If the charity is asking for used items, maybe work with them to organize their belongings and pull out toys or clothes that they have outgrown in order to give to someone who could enjoy them. Doing this will teach your child organization skills and the value of giving at the same time. It is also very important that you bring your child to the donation office with you and let them hand over the items. It will give them a sense of accomplishment and will make them feel good about what they are doing. Talk them through the whole process and make them feel comfortable with parting with their belongings by explaining to them how much someone else can benefit from their generosity.
- Encourage your child on the spectrum to Volunteer – There are many places where you can take your child to volunteer, spend time with them, and teach them compassion all at once. Passing out food at a homeless shelter, walking dogs for a pet rescue, or helping out at an old age home are just some ideas that can involve the whole family. When you volunteer with a child who has been diagnosed with autism, they tend to learn to appreciate what they have and the importance of helping others, so these are great activities that families can do together and feel good about the time they are giving to help those in need.
- Spending Time Together Outside – no matter what the season or what area you live in or visit, spending time outside with your family encourages your child to stay active, while enjoying nature and improving their overall health. The summer is a great time to be outdoors. Take your child on the spectrum for a hike and explore nature, or to the beach to play in the sand and build a sand castle. In the winter, go to the mountains and teach them to sled, or build a snowman with them. All of these activities can help your family develop a healthier lifestyle.
- Cook with your children – Educating your child how to make their favorite foods teaches them many skills. How to follow directions, where things belong, and organizational skills as well as how to take care of themselves. Practicing basic kitchen skills is a great way for children diagnosed with autism to develop life skills that can help them both now and in the future.
- Family Game Nights – A great way to spend a fun filled night at home is by initiating a weekly or monthly family game night. Board games teach skills such as following directions, taking turns; as well as cooperation and problem solving. Activities such as these provide an important foundation for both emotional development and social interaction, not to mention. It’s also just a great way to get the family to spend time together.
There are many other activities that you can do with your child on the spectrum that promote education and family fun. Some great ways to find out what they are is to look in your neighborhood weekly for community events, free concerts, etc. Find what works for your family and make it a tradition. Your child will have a great time without realizing how much they are learning in the process.