Parents play a critical role in their child’s development. Parents who have a child with autism can incorporate therapeutic activities into their daily lives to help support their child’s growth and development. Let’s explore some recommendations for activities that you can implement at home that are likely to be beneficial for your child with autism spectrum disorder.
Overview of ASD
When intentionally incorporating therapeutic activities at home with your child with autism, it is important to consider the individual needs of your child. Although each child has their own unique needs and abilities, there are also some common characteristics of children and adults with autism spectrum disorder.
Characteristics of ASD
People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have deficits or challenges in social and communication skills. Some examples of these challenges include difficulty approaching others, difficulty starting or maintaining a conversation, or lack of verbal expressive communication skills. People with ASD might also find it difficult to understand body language, read facial expressions, or express their emotions. These are just a few examples of the wide variety of social and communication skills that people with ASD may struggle with.
In addition to having difficulty with social and communication skills, people with autism (ASD) also display restricted or repetitive behaviors, which are sometimes referred to as stereotypic behaviors or stimming behaviors. Examples of this type of behavior include rocking, lining up items, repeating words or phrases - also known as echolalia, a strong need for routine, and having highly focused and intense interests.
Therapeutic ASD Activities
All children with autism experience the above characteristics to some degree but they may also experience other issues, such as fine motor delays, difficulty with activities of daily living or self-care, or displaying challenging behaviors.
Let’s explore some recommendations for therapeutic activities that you can do with your child with autism at home.
Social and Communication Skills
- You can find flashcards with prompts to help the learner practice conversation skills. This activity gives ideas for what to talk about and how to respond to others.
- There are so many skills that can be taught using board games. For instance, board games teach taking turns, focusing on the activity, being considerate of others, healthy competition skills, following directions, communicating with others, and so much more.
- You can find many workbooks that are designed to help children improve their social and communication skills. You can search Amazon for workbooks on a variety of topics, such as anxiety, anger management, emotional regulation, or coping skills.
Arts & Crafts
- Arts and crafts offer a great opportunity to work on social and communication skills. You could discover activities that come with step-by-step instructions on how to complete a project. Alternatively, you can encourage your child’s creativity by providing them with art supplies, allowing them to craft anything they imagine. Engaging in arts and crafts with your child offers an opportunity for them to enhance their ability to connect with others, both through giving and receiving compliments. Moreover, this practice aids in the development of leisure skills and facilitates improved communication abilities.
Restrictive or Repetitive Behaviors
- Fidgets can be helpful in reducing maladaptive behaviors, such as skin picking or slapping the table excessively. Fidgets can also increase focus and attention on tasks as well as reduce anxiety.
- Music, especially when listened to through headphones, can help many children and adults with autism to relax and reduce their anxiety.
- A therapy swing has multiple functions. It can offer a sense of security and comfort. It can offer gross motor opportunities. It can provide the sensation of rocking back and forth which some children with autism display.
- Some children with autism put non-edible items in their mouths or chew on things. To assist with this behavior, offer specific chew items. You can find these on Amazon. They make chew bracelets, chew necklaces, and other chew items.
Fine Motor Skills
Some children with autism show delays in fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are the tasks that require intricate use of the hands, fingers, and muscles of the arm. There are many different activities you can do at home with your child to help them improve their fine motor skills.
Busy Board (with Buttons, Snaps, Zippers, Shoe-Tying)
- You can find items that allow a child to practice buttoning, snapping, using a zipper, and tying shoes. Of course, you can also use real-life items, such as clothing and shoes for this skill. These are skills that require quite complex fine motor skills.
- Sensory bins typically have a main base item such as rice, water, beads, or sand to name a few. Usually, other small items are available to play with in the bin as well. This gives the child an opportunity to use their hands and fingers to develop fine motor skills.
- Weaving string through beads is a great fine motor activity. You can find large beads and strings or very small beads and strings depending on the needs of your child.
Arts & Crafts (Stickers, Cutting, Gluing, etc.)
- Arts and crafts offer the opportunity to work on a variety of different skills including fine motor skills. Using stickers requires the fingers to grasp the sticker off the sticker paper and then carefully place it on another piece of paper. Cutting and using glue are also fine motor activities. As we mentioned before, arts and crafts can support social and communication skills, as well.
Tracing, Writing, Coloring
- Many children with autism and other disabilities struggle with handwriting and using a writing utensil. Tracing, writing, and coloring are all excellent activities to have your child practice in order to support their fine motor skills.
Gross Motor Skills
Children with autism might also have delays in gross motor skills. Gross motor skills include activities that involve movements related to large muscles in the arms, legs, and torso. Gross motor skills are necessary for many areas of daily life such as walking, running, balancing, and coordination.
- A small trampoline is a great item to have to give kids a chance to utilize some physical energy. Some children with ASD can be hyperactive and, for these children, they may really enjoy using a small trampoline. This is also a great way to work on balance and coordination.
Bean bag toss
- A bean bag toss game is an excellent way to work on gross motor skills. It uses hand-eye coordination and supports social skills, as well.
Going for walks
- There are ample benefits to walking. It supports overall physical and mental health. It is also a great way to support your child’s gross motor skills.
For more guidance on using therapeutic activities at home with your child with autism, contact Behavioral Innovations.