02 May What an autism specialist thinks about when creating activities for kids with autism
When creating activities for my students with autism, I’ve learned some important rules over the past 20 years. My in-home (and now virtual sessions) always focus on very specific skills so that my clients continue to learn, grow, and thrive. Creating and sharing these ideas with you during Covid-19 has been so rewarding, and has inspired the creation of my Awesome Autism Activities group.
Here are some important thoughts to keep in mind when creating activities for a child with autism:
1. The game or activity needs to be based on their interests. If a child is interested in a specific cartoon, then activities should involve the characters from that show. If there is a topic that your child loves to talk about, then games should involve elements of that topic. We are all interested in activities that make us feel happy, so of course the same thing goes for your child with autism.
2. The activity needs to be adaptable and accommodate sensory needs. If your child doesn’t like loud noises, then the activity should not be noisy. However, if the goal is for your child to get used to a variety of sounds and volumes, then the games should keep that goal in mind.
3. All activities should focus on increasing and improving communication such as: introducing new vocabulary, working on conversation skills, practicing sounds, and teaching appropriate body language during interactions.
4. When interacting with a child, consider whether or not the activity is going to help improve focus and attention. This will most likely happen naturally, if he is interested in the activity or topic.
5. Many children with autism have difficulties with executive function skills. Therefore try focusing activities on organization, time management, and figuring out what steps need to be completed to finish a task.
6. Independence is key. Once a child has learned new skills, encourage and allow him to practice, practice, practice.
7. Turn-taking and sharing isn’t easy, so activities should focus on these real-life lessons. Here’s a video I created with a fun turn-taking activity.
8. Problem solving is a life-skill that may need to be taught step by step. Activities should focus on concepts such as: what’s missing, what do I need to complete this game, how do I solve this mystery, and what clues should I look for.