Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often need varying levels of additional support in learning certain skills. Examples of skills you may want to promote in a child with autism spectrum disorder include but aren’t limited to speech, social, self-care, and motor skills.
Children who work with behavioral and occupational therapists, as well as other professionals, often engage in supportive recreational and play activities that help them learn important skills. Parents can apply many of these ideas at home to support their kids.
Let’s talk about activities parents can use at home to reinforce skills in kids with ASD – and what to do if your child needs more support.
Skill-Building Activities for Kids With Autism Spectrum Disorder
Many classic childhood activities double as skill-building opportunities. Read this list of skill-building activities for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder and pick the options best suited for your unique child. Make sure to supervise activities when needed or assign another adult to do so.
Board games provide a natural opportunity to practice social skills. For example, the ability to take turns, manage frustration, and play with others. The majority of board games also promote problem-solving skills and motor skills, making them a valuable activity for kids with ASD all around.
Many occupational therapists use or recommend a wide variety of board games for children. Connect Four, Avalanche, Chutes and Ladders, Candyland, and Chess are all common examples. Many card games (like Go Fish or Uno) have similar benefits.
Consider what would be most suitable for your child, taking into account factors like attention span and age or developmental level. When you don’t have board or card games on hand, classic kids’ games like “Simon Says” or “red light/green light” work, too.
Emotions flashcards/the feelings wheel
Understanding, identifying, and expressing emotions is crucial for every child. Although adults don’t always teach these skills, they are vital – and kids with autism spectrum disorder usually have a higher level of difficulty with them. Activities that teach kids with ASD about emotions (both their own and other people’s) are crucial for social skills, emotion regulation, and addressing alexithymia.
For young kids, flashcards with emotions, such as happy, sad, or angry, provide an excellent starting place for parents and their children to talk about feelings in different contexts. For example, can your child think of a time when they felt sad? If another person feels sad, what are some ways to comfort them? Ask your child these questions and guide them if they need help.
Parents of older kids and teens may opt to present the “feelings wheel.” Kids in these age groups can use a feelings wheel to identify emotions. Once you talk about identifying those emotions, you can discuss coping skills for them.
Obstacle courses/balance games
Again, working on motor skills can be very important for many kids with ASD. Creating an indoor obstacle course with household items is an affordable, fun way to occupy kids and can aid the development of necessary motor skills. Other activities you can use to aid motor skills in children with ASD include but aren’t limited to:
- Using balance boards
- Balancing on one foot
- Yoga or yoga poses
Sports and active games
Sports and active games promote physical activity and motor skills, both of which can be important areas to emphasize when caring for a child with ASD.
One of the best ways to encourage physical activity in kids is to find an activity they like, so if there’s something a child shows interest in, such as dance or martial arts, go for it. If not, consider what you think might be a good fit. Read our blog post on how to involve kids with ASD in team sports if you are considering a team activity and aren’t sure how to navigate it.
Casual active hobbies like nature walks, riding bikes, playing hopscotch, hula hooping, jumping rope, and even active video games (like dance dance revolution) are all great options for kids who need an activity but aren’t interested in team sports.
Books and reading
Outings like going to the library can be ideal for children with ASD. At the library, encourage your child to pick out books or choose books you think they might like. Based on your child’s age, you might read aloud together before bed each night, or you might assign independent reading time and talk about the book together after they read it. Kids with dyslexia and related concerns might benefit from the use of audiobooks or books with large text.
Cooking together is an excellent way to bond, and it teaches kids a wide range of skills they will use for the rest of their lives. For example, math skills, motor skills, and concentration. Cook or bake with your child regularly and give them responsibilities such as measuring ingredients, mixing ingredients in a mixing bowl, or reading a recipe aloud.
The responsibilities you assign your child will vary based on their strengths, age or developmental level, and so on. Get creative – there’s almost always something a child can do to help!
Arts and crafts
Arts and crafts are a perfect example of classic childhood activities that promote a number of different skills. Motor skills and creative thinking skills are two of the greatest benefits of arts and crafts for kids with ASD. The safest, most ideal craft for a child might vary based on their needs. Common examples of art projects for kids with ASD include painting, drawing, and molding clay or play dough.
Many kids with Autism find that music has a special place in their hearts. For many people, music is a coping skill, mood-booster, and form of non-verbal communication. Even better, studies show that music therapy can aid social functioning in kids with ASD and related disorders. Parents can carry the benefits of music-related activities to the home. Sign a child up for music lessons, listen to music together, or teach kids songs with helpful messages. Educational songs from children’s shows are a fantastic example.
What if my Child Needs Additional Support?
If you are looking for support for a child with Autism Spectrum Disorder, you’re in the right place. Behaven Kids can help children with Autism Spectrum Disorder meet their goals. Our staff can help with a range of concerns, including but not limited to increasing communication, behavior, and functional skills.
For more information, call 1-402-926-4373 or reach out online today.