In today’s world, thanks to researches, experts, mental health professionals, and parents, there are many activities for individuals with an autism spectrum disorder. Activities can be used as a bridge between a child with autism spectrum disorder and the environment around them and the people in it.
Autism spectrum disorder is a lifelong developmental disorder that affects an individual’s perception of stimuli in the external world and the ability to regulate and use the information the individual perceives. The source of autism is not psychological. It is a neurological disorder due to brain dysfunction.
According to data from the US Department of Health, one in every 59 students is diagnosed with autism. This research is worldwide scientific research. Because of this reason, it is important to spending time with them to improve their skills, via it could be activities.
There are a lot of activities that can improve and increase social skills while strengthening the relationship between the child with autism and the people around him/her. Since each child is unique on the spectrum, it is a good idea to have a variety of ideas in order to introduce and keep the child focused on.
No matter what activity is chosen, engaging a child with autism spectrum disorder can be challenging for caregivers, such as parent or teacher. This type of interaction can get easier with lots of great activities and practice. It is kept in mind that every activity that is done will help the child with autism learn how to connect and communicate with other people in the world.
Activities That Can Be Done at Home with Children with Autism
Children with autism feel comfortable in their home, at most. For this reason, the home environment for children with autism is also an educational environment. The activities to be done in the home environment should be enjoyable activities for both children and family members.
The activities that the parents want to do with their children should be determined according to the areas that the child is interested in and needs of the child. For this, help and support should be obtained from the child’s trainer. All kinds of activities to be done at home should be activities that will enable the child to get more information about the environment.
Education and activities are a very important element in the treatment processes of children with autism. For this reason, it is important that parents find the activities that the child likes the most and encourage the child to that area. Skill learning is possible through such a method. Every day 2 – 3 times, 5 minutes of activities with children with autism is possible to gain skills.
Swimming on the Ground Activity
One of the activities that children with autism can enjoy is swimming on the ground. For this activity, a swimming pool is created by laying several mats on the floor. The child is allowed to jump into this pool and swim over his/her stomach and swim to the other side. When the child is out of the pool his/her naked hands and feet should be dried.
This activity, which can be performed with carpet or towel instead of a mat, both improves the swimming skill of the child with autism spectrum disorder and refreshes the confidence with the feeling of doing something on its own.
Cup and Cushion Activity
In addition to explaining what is used by using the glass, some concepts such as the glass being transparent and being hard can be taught to the children with autism. In the same way, playing with cushions, concepts like colors, rectangles, and shapes can be easily taught to them.
Activities with children with autism at home allow the child to act on their own as time progresses. In this way, their dependence on their family will be reduced by meeting their wishes and needs on their own. This, in turn, fulfills their full confidence.
Caregivers can put the child in a blanket or mat, roll it, and make it look like they put spices on it and rub the hamburger. If the parents or teacher make a different touch to each type of spice, the child with autism will be warned when the name of the spice is told and caregivers will be prepared, or they can ask the child to find it after learning. If the mat or blanket is thick, it can also be tried with a cover that the child is accustomed to.
Find out the Point Activity
Point the child with autism’s body in various places with soft chalk. Let the child clean these points by touching, rubbing, shaking or cleaning with a cloth, towel. It helps the child to develop fine motor movements, gross motor movements, coordination and daily routines such as cleaning.
Climbing the Mountain Activity
The child with autism could crawl on some kind of mountain-ornamented hill, straddling his/her stomach with only using hands. Rolling or slipping after climbing to the top can be given as a reward. This activity helps to enhance gross motor movements.
While the child with autism is walking on his/her hands, the child is held by his legs and guided forward by a stronger person. It can also be on a rope or path. Variations of the game can be increased. It can also be played on ramps and stairs. Caregivers should play it very carefully and without forcing the child.
Drawing Board Activity
The child with autism may try to draw both hands on the board or to perform cleaning functions with the same or different movements on both hands. The same activity can be applied in the mirror or on a different surface with shaving foam or an intense cream. Because of the risk of taking it to the mouth, it can be done with whipped cream.
Pushing a Wall Activity
It can be ensured that the child pushes the wall with both hands and is able to displace an object of its own weight. The caregiver should be the support from behind the child. It should be paid attention to that shoulders and arms equally push the wall.
Sports Activities for Children with Autism
Although there are exceptions, it is not impossible to do sports activities for children with autism. All cooperative team sports, such as football, basketball or volleyball, are all related to social communication and social interactions, and while developing team sports, advanced social communication skills are required.
Autism is a disorder where these skills are endangered or mostly impaired. Therefore, it may be difficult to fit individuals with autism into a team, communicate well with team members, or predict how another team member will behave.
At the same time, team sports, which require playing ball, require a high level of power and coordination. Autism usually causes muscle tone weakening and coordination problems. As a result of muscle weakness, sports can be a compelling activity for children with autism.
In other respects, team sports are usually played in very hot or cold places, high or bright environments. In most individuals with autism, loud sounds, bright lights, and temperature extremes create sensory difficulties that are difficult to overcome. The result can be a very unhappy child or even uncooperative child.
In the meantime, many groups are willing to give individuals with autism the opportunity to participate in team sports. If the child with autism seems to be interested, parents can search for schools and teams that offer sporting opportunities for children with autism. Every team sport that can be perfect for the child does not require a high level of communication and cooperation. Many teams can add an individual athlete as a valuable team member.
What Could the Perfect Sports Activity Be for Individuals with Autism?
Swimming: It is a great sport for most people, including individuals with autism. Children who have difficulties with their ball skills can develop that skill with basic strokes and typical water games. Moreover, because sport allows individual competition, strong swimmers with autism may succeed in swimming teams.
Athleticism (Track and Field): For children with autism, the track and field can be a great exit. Athletics require fewer communication skills than most team sports, but children who are excellent at the track are valuable team members.
Bowling: In spite of the fact that it requires high power, bowling is a natural sport for many children with an autism spectrum disorder. Bowling leagues usually offer a good opportunity to be part of a sporting organization.
What Are the Sports That Do Not Require to Be a Part of a Team for Individuals with Autism?
Horse Riding: Even though it is expensive, riding is still a terrific sport for children with autism. As a matter of fact, many children with autism have the ability to soothe horses. Children with autism can communicate with animals more easily than normally developed people.
Trekking (Walking): For many people with an autism spectrum disorder, the peace and quiet of the natural world is great stress relief. Walking can be an individual or group activity. It is an easy way to do exercise and enjoy nature without the pressure of intense social communication.
Fishing: Fishing is another sport that can attract the attention of the individual with autism who does not like the natural world.
Cycling: Riding a bike can be difficult for children with autism spectrum disorder as it requires balance. But when they master basic skills, cycling can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors.
Martial Arts: For karate, judo, taekwondo, aikido and more, individuals with autism can combine predictability and elements of the structure with the challenges of physical interaction with other people. For many children with autism, martial arts are a great way in order to develop physical skills, along with self-esteem.
Social Skills Activities for Children with Autism
Children with autism face many challenges in gaining the skills necessary in order to do their daily work, interacting with peers and family members, and in social life. There are many therapies and interventions for children with autism. Social skills activities for children with autism can help to connect with the child and fulfill the self-confidence of the child.
There are some benefits of social skill activities for children with autism. Social skills activities provide the opportunity to interact with parents in a fun and structured environment with the child and the teachers in the school, and the child’s nanny. Social skills training will help a child with autism to feel more confident and to increase self-esteem.
Those activities will enable the child with autism to become more involved in society, to socialize and to gain everyday life skills that are seen as simple for normally developed individuals but difficult for them. So, what could the social skills activities be for children with autism spectrum disorder?
Visual Sign Cards
Visual sign cards recommend a child with autism to make appropriate behaviors and preferences when communicating with their peers and their family. Parents can make clue cards for the child by cutting pictures in magazines, using photos, or making their own simple drawings.
Visual sign cards can help a child with autism to remember how to open meal packet and eat, how to get ready for school in the morning, or how to replace the backpack at the end of the school day. Tip cards also can be used in order to remember the steps of using the toilet and sink. In addition to those, visual sign cards can be prepared by showing facial expressions in order to help the child with autism recognize emotions.
Some everyday events for a child with autism may be scary or difficult to do. It is possible for the child to create a scenario and to summarize the event briefly in order to prevent the child from being afraid or worried about the behavior.
For example, caregivers can prepare a simple scenario that summarizes the process for the child’s first visit to the dentist. Prepare the script in advance and show the scenario during the appointment, so that the child will remember what will happen and will minimize the level of worry.
Caregivers can also prepare a scenario about the school. If the child with autism is having a problem with ridicule, it can be written a script for the child and encourage him/her to play expected roles. The child will be able to understand how to react when ridiculed and will have learned the behavior against reactions.
Games are a fun way of learning to learn for the child with autism. Even a simple game, such as hiding and searching, can help a child to learn to find the subject which is hidden. Children with autism may sometimes have difficulty in engaging in play. Caregivers may need to work hard to get the child’s attention.
Give the child the chance to hide first, and then give them the chance to find you when the child starts taking care of the game. In this way, caregivers can derive games that can be simple to normally developed people, but they are difficult to achieve for the child with autism, which can make them happy when the child is able to succeed, and which are useful for their socialization.
Video modeling can be an effective social skill activity. The child with autism observes appropriate behaviors on the screen and learns to repeat these behaviors in real life through repetition. Caregivers can take a short video with a camera and even create a video using scenes for family members.
When the video is played again and again for the child, the child can review the social interaction scenes over and over again, repeating the movements there and gaining positive behaviors. If the video is being made for the child, the video should be shot about the behavior attempted. In addition to those, caregivers can also write their own script or can get an idea from a specialist and create a short video.
Activity Schedules for Children with Autism
The activity schedule is a set of photos or words that direct the individual in order to perform a series of activities. The activity schedule can be different, but the activity schedule for children who do not yet know how to read files with photo tips on each page that lead the child to an activity or to prizes.
Children learn to open the activity schedule, turn the first page, point the photo, take the material specified in the picture, complete the activity, replace the material and return to the chart.
Children with autism learn to respond to written cues instead of a photographic clue when they master following the chart and improve their reading skills. For example, the child turns the page, points the clue with the index finger, reads the clue, performs the activity, and returns to the activity schedule.
Advantages of the Activity Schedule
Activity charts have many advantages such as independence, social interaction and making a choice.
Learning to follow the activity chart saves children from hints and hint dependence due to a constant need for surveillance. Research shows that children with autism can spend 80-100% of their time with activity after learning to follow the activity schedule in their schools and homes.
In 1993, Krantz and McClannahan published a research and in their research, in order to increase their engagement with their activities, children with autism have gained the ability to follow the charts. After parents involvement, they have taught their children to follow an activity schedule, the level of occupancy of children has increased. After the end of the teaching period, the level of being engaged with children’s activities has continued to be high and there have been decreases in the level of problem behaviors.
It has been shown that children have learned positive behaviors that do not match the problem behaviors as a cause of decrease in problem behaviors. In addition, it was stated that another intervention method was not used to deal with problem behaviors in the study.
Making a Choice
Written and photographic activity charts can be used to make a choice for individuals with autism. When a careful and systematic teaching is done, children learn not only to follow the activity schedule, but also to choose the activities they prefer and order the activities they choose. In the beginning, children learn to choose between two pictures; then the number of pictures and options gradually increases.
Our daily activities often require conversation. However, social interaction is seen as one of the most important problems in individuals with autism and it is considered as a subject that should be addressed first. Therefore, the first activity schedule should include at least one activity that requires social interaction.
A child who is not yet able to speak can learn to turn to someone to get bounced. A child who can say a few words can find the family or teacher and learn to interact by expressing that he wants to be tickled. A child who is making a sentence can learn to make a request about a preferred activity. It is appropriate to add peer interaction to the charts over time when the children have the ability to follow the schedule.
In everyday life, every person has a lot of responsibility, and many people use charts, appointment books, planners, or calendars to fully fulfill these responsibilities. Some people make a to-do list, or some use tablet, computers or mobile phones in order to keep track of what they have to do.
Photographed and written schedules serve the same purpose in individuals with autism and with this feature activity charts are considered as a natural approach. The schedule reminds the individuals with autism that they need to do. So in this way, they do their daily routines and activities like other people do without requiring anyone to remind them what to do.
Activities for Children with Autism from Birth to 3 Years
Most children with moderate or severe autism spectrum disorder receive a diagnosis before the age of 3. Even those children with symptoms of mild autism may begin therapy before getting the official diagnosis. There are some activities that can be used in order to work with the youngest children on the spectrum.
Box o2beans: Caregivers can fill a large plastic tub with sensory beads or dried beans from the grocery store. Place small toys throughtout and have the child with autism place their hands in the box in order to pull out the desired objects. This activity will help the child with autism with sensory issues surrounding texture and touch.
Scented bubbles: Blowing bubbles can work on oral motor skills as well as it can be a fun sensory experience. More than that, pointing to the bubbles and exaggerating reactions can help work on a child with autism’s joint attention. It is a very important but also a very challenging area for many children with an autism spectrum disorder.
Finger painting: It is a messy but fun activity. It can help children with autism in order to learn about colors and provide an opportunity to discover new textures through touch and observe. In addition to those benefits, it can also help reduce sensory sensitivity through exposure.
Singing and writing: Children mostly like the melodious nature of poems or the repetition of verses in a song. Caregivers can make up and prepare songs and poems in order to teach children with autism daily routines, such as how to dress or feed themselves. They can use children with autism’s favorite songs as a reward after a child does a less desirable activity. That activity is less desirable but necessary. Caregivers also can incorporate physical activities into songs, for example, jumping, skipping and hopping.
Activities for Children with Autism in Preschool and Kindergartens
Many children with autism spectrum disorder are experiencing their first major exposure to their peers during the preschool years. On the other hand, changing the environment and routine can be more challenging for them. This period of time is when many children on the spectrum receive intensive, targeted therapies and interventions.
In the classroom, preschool activites for children with autism can help kids learn how to express their emotions, regulate their sensory challenges, and interact with their peers. Activities for children with autism in kindergarten can target the skills that kids will need as they move into grade school.
Activities for Children with Autism at Grade School
Many children with autism are beginning to stand out more from their peers in preschool years, and they may be experiencing bullying and social isolation more than their peers may. Social skill activities can help them to form relationships. In addition to that, as their peers’ motor skills become more advanced, some children with autism may find they are falling behind. Gross motor activities can help them catch up with their peers.
Guessing game: During this game, the child close the eyes and hold a simple object, such as a block, a cup or a toy. Someone needs to tell him to feel the object and describe, if the child is verbal. In other respect, if the child is non-verbal, he/she should show a picture of the object after opening the eyes. As a result, this game helps children with autism use senses other than vision in order to learn about the world around them.
Draw my face: Children with autism should draw a large circle on a piece of paper. For completing that circle, firstly someone should demonstrate a variety of emotions through facial expressions, and then, the child draws the face that someone is making. The child needs someone to assist in labeling the emotions, like happy, sad, angry or surprised.
Dance party: This is a great and fun way for children with autism to learn about rhythm, counting and develop physical coordination. It helps with sensory integration, since movement can provide necessary proprioceptive input.
Puppet show: For playing this, socking puppets or child’s dolls can be used. Caregivers can teach emotions and social skills through role play. It is a great activity to do before major life events, for example moving from somewhere else or starting a new school. It helps children with autism understand how situations play out before they happen so they know what to expect.
Activities for Children with Autism in Teenage Years
Children on the spectrum can have problems and struggle with communication and social skills. Also they can have problems with the executive function or planning aspects of daily life routines during the teen years. Using speech and language for teens with autism can help strengthen their ability in order to communicate with peers and with adults. In addition to those, sequencing activities can help them plan out their daily schedule at home and at school.
Blindfolded obstacle course: It is a great activity for working on the theory of mind (ToM). There should be some obstacle course set up that will need children to move around, move over and move under various objects. Individuals should work in pairs and one of them should be wearing a blindfold. The other one should give directions in order to help the blindfolded one get through the obstacle course.
Improvisational skits: Individuals with autism should work in groups. During this activity, they have a prop, for example, it could be a clipboard, a steering wheel or a pair of pants. Children should work together in order to create an improvisational skit surrounding the object, changing the scene as they go. This activity is a great way for breaking out of routines and encourage collaboration.
Movie listening quiz: This activity can be challenging for individuals on the spectrum to tune in to the feelings and words of others. Especially when there are a lof of distractions around them, it becomes more challenging. A scene from a movie is played for children with autism. Then, a quiz is given to them in order to see how much of the interaction they were able to detect and pick up. They answer questions about how the characters were feeling, what their facial expressions were and how they expressed themselves.