Children suffering from autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, enjoy playing games like any other kid. It’s only that they find some games difficult or play in a repetitive way. For instance, an autistic child may rather like to fixate on watching the wheels of a toy car spinning, or may finish a puzzle in the same way all the time. Autism spectrum disorder affects the development of communication and social skills. As a result, simple skills needed for games-like the ability to emulate simple actions, share objects with others, explore the environment and respond to behaviors-often takes a hit.
But individual with autism spectrum disorder can develop special skills for playing games. Following are the stages through which they usually pass.
At this stage, autistic children usually explore the toys and objects rather than play with them. They may cuddle with a teddy bear, or put a block in their mouth, or inspect a doll’s hand. Autistic children, like others, begin to learn about their world through various colors, shapes, textures and sizes.
This is when the autistic child plays with toys that require action for producing the desired result, like pressing a button to play some music, or winding up the jack-in-the-box. Praising your autistic child when he completes the correct action will encourage them to repeat it. Even if they fail, encourage them to do it correctly the next time.
At this stage the usual activities include pushing the toy car, bringing the toy phone close to the ear, or throwing a ball. Of course the child will need assistance because the response time for children with autism is usually slower than their non-autistic peers.
This stage involves working towards a goal, like finishing a jigsaw, making towers from blocks or simply drawing a picture. Children with ASD may be slow carrying out certain tasks but can outperform others in some. They often excel in drawing. Encourage your child to play constructively by showing pictures or through practical demonstration.
Physical play involves running around and several other games that familiarize children with people and their immediate surroundings. Observation of this stage has paved the path for the development of various games for children with autism. Mobile apps in particular help improve fine motor skills, leading to quick physical response to environmental stimuli.
The importance of pretend play is almost impossible to undermine in the context of games for individual with autism. Activities include dressing like superheroes, feeding a teddy, pretending to drive a car and so on and so forth. Pretend play develops skills required to build social, communication and language skills. This type of play could be an unfamiliar territory for individual with autism, but with support and necessary intervention, many are known to overcome their difficulties.
As the name suggests, social play involves playing with others or in a team. It’s particularly challenging for children with ASD. Other children may be reluctant to include an autistic child in their group. Parents of non-autistic children need to make their kids understand that a child with ASD is like any other kid. They just need more support and acceptance.