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How to Find Autism-Friendly Activities for Your Kids

by Rachel Pancare

Finding activities that your autistic child enjoys and feels comfortable doing can sometimes be a challenge. Autism affects the brain and changes the way a child communicates and interacts with people, making many experiences more difficult, says KidsHealth. But with a little thought, you can find plenty of fun and exciting activities that will please your child while being sensitive to his needs. Speak to special education teachers and administrators, peruse community websites or social media groups, and visit a local children's museum for ideas.

Consider topics, places and materials that would intrigue your child, taking into account his likes, dislikes, interests and personality. Mayo Clinic explains that while all autistic children have trouble with social interaction and language, symptoms, skills and behavior can vary greatly between individual children. Look at books or pictures to see what your child gravitates toward. Ask him questions about different topics. Provide some art supplies, objects or toys to see if he has certain preferences or aversions.

Read articles online, find books in your library or bookstore and speak to professionals such as doctors, teachers or psychologists to research activity possibilities.

Seek out any school networks that might be available to you, such as PTO groups and autism support groups. Connect with other parents of autistic children in your neighborhood and ask about their experiences and advice.

Offer games or projects that expose your child to multiple sensory experiences. These can help him learn to tolerate a variety of sensations, as long as the games and projects are not too overwhelming. For example, set up a rice table in which your child can swirl his hands or arrange different types of paper that he can scrunch into balls or shapes. Test out different materials to see what your child likes best.

Encourage movement through equipment that your child can climb, jump over or crawl on, such as mats or big cushions. As outlined in "Medical Daily," a 2013 study led by Kathy Ralabate Doody, Ph.D., of SUNY Buffalo State revealed that children with autism prefer systematic repetitive play that offers broad sensory stimulation. Set up stations where your child can manipulate objects by rolling, dropping or bouncing them. Encourage your child to switch from one activity to another as desired.

Speak with a physical or occupational therapist who may be available in your child's school to learn about other autism-friendly physical activities. Visit open spaces like fields or parks where your child can expend energy in different ways.

Items you will need
  • Sports equipment (such as mats, balls, cushions or trampolines)
  • Art supplies (such as paper, finger paint or rice)

About the Author

Rachel Pancare taught elementary school for seven years before moving into the K-12 publishing industry. Pancare holds a Master of Science in childhood education from Bank Street College and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Skidmore College.

Photo Credits

  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images