All children learn through play, and even your non-verbal child can gain important developmental and communication skills through activities that encourage cognitive, motor and social abilities. By engaging your child in a variety of activities that he enjoys, you are helping him master new skills and promoting his language development.
Play With Toys
Non-verbal children learn important skills from playing with toys, according to Kerry Hogan of the Chapel Hill TEACCH Autism Program. Cause and effect toys such as a jack-in-the-box or rattle teach your child that an action can bring about a specific result. For example, shaking the rattle causes it to make a noise, or a toy may play a song when a button is pressed. Open-ended toys -- such as blocks and cars -- teach your child that toys do not always have a clear and obvious purpose. Demonstrate for your child how to play with these toys in multiple ways. Line up the blocks, stack them and build a structure with them, showing him how to use the toy and giving him some ideas for his own independent play.
Sorting and Matching Games
Hogan states that visual thinking is often an area of strength for non-verbal children. For this reason, your non-verbal child will likely enjoy playing sorting and matching games that involve spatial reasoning and encourage motor development. Purchase shape sorters for your little one to play with, or allow her to help you sort silverware next time you unload the dishwasher. Inset puzzles -- where the pieces of the puzzle fit into the correctly shaped hole -- and jigsaw puzzles, for older children, are also a beneficial sorting and matching game.
Interactive play provides opportunities for your child to learn social skills from you, according to Autism Speaks Chief Science Officer, Geri Dawson, and Autism Speaks Assistant Director for Dissemination Science, Lauren Elder. Dawson and Elder suggest positioning yourself close to your child as you interact with him, to encourage eye contact and make it easier for your child to see and hear you. Play that encourages interaction includes singing, gentle rough-housing and chanting nursery rhymes to your little one. Read to your child, using books with vivid illustrations that stimulate his visual thinking.
Peers should be introduced gradually to play activities, according to Hogan. Invite another child over for a play date, but merely have the other child in the same room, playing with a different set of toys than your non-verbal child. As your child becomes comfortable having a peer in close proximity, have the children play with the same toys, such as blocks, cars or art supplies, side-by-side. Eventually, the two children will begin sharing toys and materials and may be ready to play together. Try starting with simple games, such as Old Maid or Memory, and consider engaging in this type of play with a child who is older than your child and may be more patient and understanding if things do not always go smoothly.
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