Children learn through play, which is why play therapy is a well-known and used form of therapy for children with autism. It can be used with a therapist or at home in a child’s daily routine. Lexington Services provides students and members opportunities to play games while also teaching them developmental, communication, and social skills.
Games are an excellent way for children to practice social skills and coordination. From board games to video games, children are surrounded with endless possibilities when it comes to playing, but some games also have an educational aspect. Card games, board games, and video games can all have an element of “a teachable moment,” even if the child is unaware.
When choosing a game, parents should remember that some games may need adaptation for the child or children participating. Here is a shortlist of games that can be adapted or played as usual with children who have autism:
A very popular classic board game among children, Candyland requires players to choose cards from a deck to determine their next move. The game is pretty straightforward but also gives players roadblocks to keep it interesting. Players will experience losing turns and getting sent back to the previous space, depending on the card they pick. These elements will teach children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) how to manage disappointment and handle it in front of their peers.
Battleship is another popular classic where players are trying to sink the ships of their opponents. It is a wonderful strategy game that will teach children logical thinking and reasoning. Children with ASD will find the strategizing and planning beneficial. Battleship can also be played online against the computer or other opponents.
Memory is a visual card game that plays on the memory of cards. Some children with ASD will excel at this game, while others may require some adaptation. To adapt the game, the player should start with four cards, making two pairs. The cards should be facing up and as the player becomes more familiar with the game, gradually add more pairs. As they understand spatial awareness and location, begin to flip a few of the cards facing down. Another fun way to play is to find cards with the child’s favorite subject, like character or insects.
War is a classic card game where players must understand the concept of greater than and less than. Adaptations to this game may include:
- Providing a line of numbers from 2 -10 and the player must decide which is bigger
- When using a 52 card deck, remove the Jack, Queen, King, and Ace, so they only use cards with visible numbers. Add them back when the child is ready.
A trendy game, Minecraft is a “sandbox game that allows children to exert a lot of control over their environment.” Minecraft is popular among developing kids and kids affected by autism as they can explore unknown worlds in the comfort of their room.
New Super Mario Bros. U
New Super Mario Bros U is an excellent game to work on social skills and teamwork to reach a common goal. The game requires the player to understand how their actions and communication will affect their teammate and vis vera. As the team works together to achieve goals, they will experience more challenging levels and new strategies to pass them.
AutiSpark: Games for Kids with Autism
Made for both IOS and Google Play, AutiSpark is a “one-of-a-kind education app for children with ASD.” The app is specially designed for those struggling to teach basic concepts and provides many well-researched, engaging, and interactive games suited for a child’s learning requirements. The type of games found on the app include:
- Words & Spelling
- Basic Math Skills
- Tracing Games
- Memory Games
- Sorting Games
- Matching Games
There is a wide variety of games that can be introduced and modified for all ages and development levels. The critical thing to remember is to have patience while teaching these games to children with ASD. Start slow and gradually add cards, items, or players as they become more comfortable with the concepts needed to play the game. As time goes on, a family game night might be a weekly routine.