Autism spectrum disorder refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by difficulties with speech and non-verbal communication, repetitive behavior and challenges with common social skills. According to the Centers for Disease Control, it is estimated that 1 in 54 children in the United States is affected by autism. It is estimated that 1 in 160 children worldwide has an autism spectrum disorder. No cure exists for autism spectrum disorder. The goal of treatment is to maximize your child’s ability to function by reducing the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder and support learning and development. Whilst there are various and effective forms of treatment available, this article will just focus on fun educational games for children with autism. You should always speak to an expert specializing in child development before starting your child on any form of therapy. Some fun and easy games that autistic kids can play:
- Make number rubbings
- The matching game
- Finding hidden toys
- Hide and seek
Make Number Rubbings
All kids love using crayons. That’s nothing new. It’s probably all the bright colors that attracts them and keeps them engaged. Make use of this enthusiasm and creativity by introducing them to number rubbings. Children with autism will likely need a lot of practice when they are learning their numbers. Therefore, the more engaging, fun and hands on activities we can expose them to, the better.
You will Need:
- White Paper – 10 sheets.
- Jumbo crayons with the wrapper removed.
- Black marker.
- At least 5 flat objects with different textures (coins, leaves with pronounced design, flat key, anything else you can find ).
- Using the black marker, draw the numbers 1 – 10 on individual blank sheets of paper.
- Draw outlined, big block numbers so that your child can color in the numbers.
- Place a blank piece of paper over a coin and show your child how to make a design by rubbing the crayon shaft over the paper with the coin underneath.
- Now introduce your child to the main activity. Place the stack of numbered papers in front of your child. Explain to him/her that for each numbered page he/she will have to match the corresponding number of textures. For example, choose the page with the number 2. Place the page over a coin, with the coin in between the outline of the number. Now take a crayon and rub it over the paper so that the design of the coin appears within the outline of the big, bold number 2. Repeat, so that their are 2 coin designs within the template of the number 2. Using a different color crayon, color in the rest of the template.
It is a great game to teach kids math. They get to match the number of rubbings with the corresponding numeral.
The Matching Game
There are many benefits to this simple game for kids.
The benefits of matching games:
- Improves short term memory.
- Enhances concentration levels.
- Improves attention to detail.
- Improves the ability to differentiate and find similarities between objects.
- Increase a child’s vocabulary.
- Refines and trains visual memory skills.
- Helps kids to identify and group together items and objects with similar characteristics.
You will need:
- A collection of random items from around the house
- A large sheet of white paper / few regular sheets of white paper
- Black marker
You and your child can gather up some random items from around the house or use some of his play items. Make sure the items you use are easy to trace. Preferably use flat items and items that your child can easily recognize after it has been traced on paper.
Use the black marker to trace around each item. Fill up the white paper with as many shapes as possible. Place all the random items into a basket. Place the white paper with all the traced shapes alongside the basket. Now, ask your little one to pick an item from the basket and match it to the corresponding shape on the paper. This is a simple and cost effective game you can play with your child. You can make it and play it anywhere with your little one.
Finding Hidden Toys
This game will improve your child’s sensory skills by feeling, touching and identifying various toys.
You will need:
- A large plastic toy bin.
- 10 toys of different shapes.
- Sufficient colorful beans or beads to fill the toy bin.
Fill up the large plastic toy bin with the colorful beans or beads. Submerge and hide all the toys in the bin. Now ask your child to put his hand into the bin and feel around for the toys. He should feel the toy and try to identify it before taking it out of the toy bin.
Hide and Seek
Playing hide-and-seek is not just a silly game for kids, it can have some cognitive benefits as swell. Children use their imagination and develop their problem solving skills as they try to find out where the object or person is hiding. They also begin to appreciate the concept of volume and space as they try to figure out the ideal hiding spots. They can also develop their social skills as they learn to play with others, take turns and deal with conflicts between participants.
However, this popular kids game can pose a challenge for children with autism who normally like to hide and avoid people, as it can appear to encourage such behavior. The following adaptation may be helpful for children with autism.
Adaptation of Hide and Seek:
- Play in an enclosed area, like a house or gymnasium. Ensure that the children are made aware of the boundaries within which they need to play.
- Inspect the area prior to starting the game to identify the safety of potential hiding spots.
- Explain the sequence of events to the child so that he/she knows what to expect from the game.
- Give the child something to do while he is waiting to be found, like one of his favorite books to read or play-doh to keep him occupied.
- Provide language models that can be used in the game. These could be phrases like ” come out, come out, wherever you are” or ” I found you!”. Practice the language models with your child before they engage in a game of hide-and-seek with their peers.
This seemingly simple game improves a child’s coordination, cognitive development and balance. Hopscotch develops a child’s ability to cross the body midline, improve body control, gain muscle strength, enhance hand-eye coordination and develop fine motor skills. However, these skills can be difficult for kids with autism to master so there may be a need to adapt the game to suite autistic kids.
Adaptation of Hopscotch:
- The spaces on the board should not only be numbered but bright colors should also be used to identify the different squares.
- Focus on one skill at a time. For example, if a child tosses the marker onto a square then he can just walk to the square instead of hopping. Let him concentrate on developing his ability to toss the marker accurately. Alternatively the child can forego the marker and practice hopping, he can hop down the board and back
Get an Early Start
Teaching children with autism, communication skills and learning strategies early in their lives will make it all the more likely that they will reach their full academic potential later in life. As mentioned at the beginning of this article, there are many effective methods to do this. Learning strategies and methodology need not be expensive nor boring. Adapting old school games to suit kids with autism will keep them engaged and entertained and you can play these games with your child as well.