03 Aug Alone on the Playground?
There are so many social opportunities available to your child on the playground.
Autism affects social skills. So whether it’s that your child is not picking up on non-verbal cues, or that he doesn’t know how to appropriately interact with others, these difficulties can directly affect his friendships.
It can be challenging to work on social skills with your child one-on-one, without being able to practice learned skills with other children. The playground is the perfect setting to teach him important strategies to assist with his social development.
Parents often think that it is a therapist’s job to work on these skills, but there are so many activities we can do to assist kids with communication, interactions, and play-skills without actually having to step foot in a therapy setting. It will take some teamwork and collaboration with the classroom teacher, so be sure to share this post with others on your team.
First, teach your child how to initiate play with his peers. Children often say things under their breath and other kids may not hear them. For example, when playing a game of chase, a child with autism may quickly say, “Chase me,” as he is running right by his classmate. If that classmate didn’t actually hear him, the other child may think he was being ignored. We need to catch these opportunities instead of letting them pass us by. The Autism Educates Social Skills Workbook covers some of these strategies to help your child with many different play-skills for different social situations.
Teach your child to say the other person’s name by encouraging him to tap his friend on the shoulder AND say his name. Once he has his friend’s attention, he can then ask, “Do you want to play chase?” He should then wait for his friend’s response. If his friend says, “no,” your child can find another friend to play with. He can ask his friend, “Oh, what do you want to play?”
Encourage your child to pick up on cues if someone does not want to play with him. What does that even look like? What should your child do if someone doesn’t want to play? What are the non-verbal signals that other kids display to indicate that they are not interested in playing? Map out these skills for your child, because the social cues are not as obvious for him.
The best way to figure out how kids show each other that they don’t want to play is for you to sit back and observe them on the playground. Create a visual list of these non-verbal cues and review them with your child. It’s natural for kids to not want to play with each other sometimes, and it’s extremely important to teach these cues and coping mechanisms to your child.
Teach turn-taking skills. A playground is such a natural setting to teach this skill. Whether it’s a game of chase, waiting for his turn on the slide, or throwing a ball, taking turns is an essential social skill. The best way to practice turn-taking is to model it. Don’t presume that your child understands how to take turns. Even if you practice turn-taking at home, he may not generalize (demonstrate the skill across different environments) this skill to the playground at school.
You can even create a story using pictures and words outlining how to take turns on the playground.
Practicing social skills on the playground is going to set your child up for success.
What are your child’s biggest challenges on the playground? Please share below.