Parents of autistic children have an important role in helping them learn through play. However, this is easier said than done and playing can be very challenging for parents of an autistic child. This is primarily because children with autism do not have ordinary play skills. They may like to line up or stack toys, play by themselves, resist interaction of others, or simply want to be in their own world.
Often, it is up to the adults to find out ways to engage and communicate with an autistic child who may have little or no interest in playing. It may be difficult to figure out ways to play with them because:
- It is not easy to capture and hold the attention of an autistic child for more than a few minutes
- An engaged autistic child often prefers to do the same things over and over again, and it can be hard to break the pattern
- Autistic children rarely bring their own ideas or energy into interactive play, so the adult must step in here to keep the child engaged
Parents may feel overwhelmed by the challenges of playing with autistic children. There are some easy ways to get started and there are parent-led therapies to help autistic children build play skills. Some of these techniques can provide therapeutic ways to grab the child’s attention and have a fun play time:
- It may not always be easy to get your child’s attention away from an ideal or preferred activity. The best solution to this is to join your child in the activity to gain their attention. Try varying the current activity once you have your child’s attention. You can add small challenges or move objects out of line. This will make sure that your child comes to you to continue doing what he enjoys, and helps you kick-start communication.
- Play chase and tickle games to help engage reluctant youngsters who aren’t sure how to communicate verbally or respond in kind to social overtures.
- Blowing bubbles is also a wonderful way to engage your child in play. You can take turns and blow lots of bubbles together.
- Puppets have a way of connecting with children in ways that humans can’t. Using puppets of favorite characters can help elicit positive response from autistic children.
- Water can be a great tool to help autistic children have fun. Whether playing with a hose or in a pool, or splashing in a bucket of water, it offers therapeutic fun for children without the need for conversation or competition.
- Kids with autism may have a tough time in free play, but often find it easy to memorize scripts. You can try reciting poems or singing their favorite songs together. You can even act out scenes from movies and plays or improvise together.
Play can help autistic children learn and communicate better with their parents, teachers as well as peers. It is important that parents find out ways to play together with autistic children and help in their growth and development.