The playground can be an overwhelming experience for children who have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Not only is it an unstructured environment, but it can also be crowded and unpredictable. Children with ASD don’t naturally acquire the skills to be able to interact with others and these need to be taught through specific interventions. There are many activities that parents can do with their children to help the transition into the playground. Areas for parents to consider include relational and sensory activities and social stories.
These activities use rewarding teaching methods and focus on people’s faces. Simple activities that utilize cause and effect work really well. A great example is Peek-a-boo because it prompts children to look at the other person and it cements object permanence. Other relational activities to try include:
- Face games
- Board games (such as Guess Who)
These activities allow children to work through their sensitivity issues in a fun way. Ideas that you can use include:
- Outdoor play sets/playgrounds
- Textured cloths and blocks
- Sensory bins (such as dry beans, rice, oatmeal)
- Chase, tag and running games
Social stories are a great way for children with ASD to gain an understanding of specific social interactions and can help them with their social comprehension skills. Social stories can be used to assist children with developing an understanding of expected vs. unexpected behaviors in various social situations, thus helping them to predict how individuals should or should not respond.