Engaging activities for children with autism

Family playing a board game
Providing your autistic child with activities that stimulate them but make them feel secure at the same time can be a challenge. Tessa Scott looks at fun activities that benefit autistic children.

Parents of autistic youngsters will know that it is impossible to involve their child in an activity they don’t enjoy. The successful introduction of new games or sports will be very much a matter of trial and error, depending on the child’s preferences, personality and abilities. But there is little to be lost and much to be gained in discovering fresh ways for a child to develop and to find entertainment.

Physical activity, in particular, is often of great benefit to autistic children. The right kind of sport can reduce anxiety and aggression, as well as increasing motor skills and aiding social interaction.

Even at home, outdoor play equipment can be of the utmost value. A swing and a mini-trampoline will almost certainly be used extensively. The repetitive but energetic movements are not only enjoyable but help an anxious child become calmer.

Great indoor activities

Den-making

Encourage your child to build their own private place (under the table, for instance) with cushions and blankets and so on.  This “hiding place” can provide a valuable refuge.

Musical games

Make saucepans into drums and plastic bottles into maracas or buy a tambourine, recorder or other instrument. Music can be a powerful means of communication.

Card games

Games such as Higher or Lower, Pairs, and Snap help concentration and also sociability, as other family members and friends can join in.

Bingo

This is another game everyone can enjoy, which also promotes number recognition. Bingo sets (with laminated cards and number-dispensing machines) can be found in stationers’ or toy shops.

Playing Shop

Set up a “shop” or restaurant with real or plastic coins in the till. This will encourage coin recognition and also prepare your child for real life situations.

Art activities

Many autistic children are extremely creative, given the right materials. As well as painting and colouring, encourage the making of collages, plate-decorating and other crafts.

Great outdoor activities

Riding

Interaction with a horse can be immensely rewarding and often a strong bond will build between your child and the animal. Some stables can offer tuition especially geared to children with autism.

Beach play

Sandcastle-building and stone-skimming are activities which particularly suit a child with strong concentration skills.

Skating and skateboarding

An ideal though demanding activity which greatly enhances co-ordination and has very definite aims.

Travelling

Autistic children often like the sense of order in train station so try going for a ride.  It can help to better accustom a child to crowds and noise.

Golf or Crazy Golf

The attraction of these sports is that they require concentration and focus but are not part of demanding team-play. Autistic children can achieve high levels of abilities in the kind of sports which they can tackle as individuals, rather than as a group.