In this article I will explain 10 activities and games for autistic children that will help them to have fun and to learn various skills.
The Autism is a neurodevelopmental syndrome that the American Psychiatric Associationdefined by the presence of deficits in reciprocal social and communication, as well as repetitive behaviors or unusually tight.
This syndrome has its beginning in childhood. Parents often begin to worry when they see that their child, despite being able to recite the alphabet or repeat phrases they have heard on television, never uses language for communicative purposes 1 .
Autism is a heterogeneous syndrome, so there are no two children or adults who suffer from autism and who have exactly the same symptom profile.
Activities for Autistic Children
While these people share behavioral and communication disorders, in each person the severity of the picture is different and the symptoms experience variations with the course of development. In addition, although the majority present some type of intellectual alteration, this is not an inherent characteristic of autistic spectrum disorders.
Although progress is variable and behavioral characteristics change over time, most autistic children continue to experience characteristic symptoms of the disorder once they are adults. These translate into problems related to independence, employment, social relationships and mental health.
Therefore, the priority objectives of the treatment of autistic spectrum disorders are to minimize the main characteristics of the disorder and associated deficits, maximize functional independence and quality of life and alleviate the stress of the family and the surrounding environment.
To achieve these objectives, the essential ingredients in any treatment will be: facilitate development and learning, promote socialization, reduce maladaptive behaviors and educate / support families 2 .
10 activities that children and autistic people love to do
While it is true that there are certain activities that an autistic person will enjoy more than others, the key is not so much to choose the task as to enrich it.
The secret lies in applying the principles of multisensory stimulation to leisure and routine activities with the autistic person.
What is multisensory stimulation?
This consists of stimulating each and every one of the senses when we perform an activity.
In line with what I highlighted earlier, I found in my work with autistic a series of activities and patterns that have worked surprisingly and that are based on this principle:
There is a key difference in saying “It’s time to go to bed, we’re going to put on our pajamas, etc.” or sing the typical song “Let’s go to bed you have to rest, so that tomorrow we can get up early”.
When I realized that talking in a “usual” way is not effective with autistic people, I decided to try to say things by singing. It worked.
It is not about reciting what we would normally say by putting a melodic tone to it. It is about creating musical codes with the autistic person. The most surprising thing of all is that you will learn it and in a few days you will be surprised singing it in unison with you.
With Ana, I created a song for each routine activity that had to be performed: wake up, clean up, eat, walk, sleep, etc. In a few days he learned them and when it was time to do some activity, it was she who surprised me by singing the songs.
I will return to use the example of Ana to illustrate this idea. One day Ana was unappetizing. He did not want to leave the house and nothing he wanted.
I decided to take colored pencils and paper and try to communicate with her through drawings. It worked. We spent hours and hours drawing tirelessly and sharing fun and joy.
Sometimes autistic people will feel overwhelmed by the world and will have the typical day of “I do not feel like facing reality”.
On these occasions, use artistic language as a means of expressing frustrations and feelings. You can also see that your mood will be reflected in the colors you choose. In this way, you will know if the activity is working or not.
The beauty of the world
Taking walks is something that autistic people generally like.
Take advantage of the moments of walk to channel the attention of the person on the beauty of nature. A simple flower can trigger great happiness for an autistic person: the key is to transmit your own sensation.
Surprise yourself with the beautiful things that you see when you go strolling, provoking smiles and transmitting sensations. Even the pleasant breeze can be a topic of conversation.
This idea serves a double task: on the one hand, to create a feeling of maximum enjoyment of the walk and on the other, to distract the autistic person from possible candidate things to produce an anxiety reaction.
The importance of having a good time
More happiness means, on the one hand, greater learning and, on the other, more learning opportunities. This is a must-have cocktail for people with autism.
Now, what are the keys that point out that the autistic person is enjoying an activity? 4
Your visual attention to the activity is the clearest key. The longer you keep your attention on the activity to develop, the more you will like it.
Another key is the anticipation of the autistic person. Generally, autistic people will passively wait for your instructions. This is not the case if the activity performed is attractive.
If you observe anticipation in the person, reinforce it and remember that this activity is especially liked. It will most likely name the activity and ask you every day to do it.
The power of repetition
The more familiar an activity is for the autistic person, the more he will like it. This is because they enjoy the routine, that is, the activities structured in time and space.
Every time you do an activity, unless it involves visiting different places, try to always be in the same place and at the same time.
If there are no activities that the autistic person enjoys, build them
Even bath time can be a fun-generating activity.
An example could be creating soap bubbles on the person’s arm, which will then rinse with water. Repeat it several times and you will see a smiling response from the person. Small details in a repetitive way is the way to entertain these people.
On the other hand, how to know if an activity is not fun?
As important as identifying the fun generating activities is to realize if an activity is being boring or if something that previously generated fun, stopped doing it.
If the person turns his gaze between turns or if you notice changes in his body language that indicate he is being passive, discard that activity or generate novelty with new details.
The rule of 10 seconds
Whatever activity you perform, try to make it a turn-based game. This will make the autistic person keep his interest and participation in the activity.
Since passivity is a generator of anxiety and boredom, try to get the person to give a verbal or non-verbal response every 10 seconds or so.
You will need to start an act, pause and wait often to give the person the opportunity for their communicative turn. Be patient during breaks and wait for a response from the person.
If this answer is not given, change your strategy.
Learn to detect when it is time to finish the activity
Again, it is very unlikely that an autistic person will verbally convey to you that they want to end the activity. If the person’s responses diminish and you can not generate them through variations, it is time to end the activity and offer a different range of different possibilities.
In the same way, if you are the one who is getting bored, do not hesitate to change your activity. The person will detect very accurately if you are bored by your non-verbal language and will be frustrated by not understanding your reaction.
If when you try to abort the activity because you want it but you notice that the responses of the autistic person become more intense, disorganized and hyperactive, it is time to calm things down gradually.
Gradually slow down the activity and lower your tone of voice. If this does not work, then simply verbally says “the activity is over” and always propose an alternative: “the activity is over because now it’s time to …”.
Activities with objects
When you use objects to create a playful activity, the difference is that you are probably the only person who will use the object, there will be no pattern of turns with the object.
Start by making a small gesture with the object to cause a great effect. Observe the person’s reaction: smiles, expressions of pleasure, etc. If the person recoils or seems bored or worried, stop and wait. Try to repeat the action but in an attenuated way and try to observe again if the person makes any response with the body or face.
If the person smiles, approaches, seems interested or excited, repeats the gesture with the object and then pauses. Wait for the person to communicate in some way that you want to do it again.
Beyond the concept of “autism”
The first time I came in contact with an autistic person, all my knowledge about the disorder collapsed in a matter of minutes.
In general terms, everything that is usually described as a characteristic of the disorder is true. However, each case is different and in most cases having knowledge in the area contributes to forming preconceived ideas that can be counterproductive when it comes to relating to these people.
My first advice when it comes to contributing to the happiness, development and well-being of people categorized within the autistic spectrum is not to limit ourselves to think that they are different, that they will not be able to communicate with you or you and they will be flat and inaccessible.
It is not like this. The fact that they have limitations in terms of their communicative abilities refers more to a question of language use as we do it than to a lack or communicative deficiency in general.
Yes, they will communicate with you and you with them.
Yes, they will be highly satisfactory communications and you will realize that the world can be perceived and lived from other points of view.
What are we doing wrong?
Of the people cataloged within the autistic spectrum I learned a lot and I got to ask, are we the ones who have a problem?
I am writing to you: surely at the same time that you are reading these words you are extracting content, interpreting, associating emotionality, empathizing, etc. However, an autistic person will not be able to do so if they only have “informative content”.
It will do so based on other communication keys. Will be able to empathize, interpret, associate emotions, etc., but not from the words.
This is our big mistake. We tend to always look at the content when we talk and this is, in reality, a limitation.
The verbal content in a communicative act transmits 35% of the total communicative information. If we include in the equation all the other stimuli that we can perceive auditorily in a conversation (tone of voice, volume, rhythm), we will only receive 45% of the total information. This is not all: The non – verbal language conveys the remaining 55% of the information! 3
Knowing this let’s reflect, what are we doing wrong? We are communicating badly.
People on the autism spectrum communicate perhaps, worse than us? I do not think so,…
If you just ignore the content, only 35% of the information is lost. The rest of the people, if we only focus on the content, we only receive 35% of the information! Incredible but true.
Being even more drastic, … I would recommend anyone who wants to develop effective communication to train with someone on the autism spectrum. It sounds challenging and, it is.
Unlike us, they are transparent. Why? They do not tend to mess up their communications with palaver.
Also Read: Potomania: Symptoms, Causes and Treatments
My father has always told me: “you should be an actress”. He says that my expression conveys everything. I used this when I met Ana through the Adcor Foundation, then we connected.