Playing is very important for all children, they learn important social skills, gross and fine motor skills, as well as develope imaginative play. Autistic children learn to generalize their skills that they had learned previously through play.
To develop play skills and adequate time to spend playing , the care taker, parents or therapist must gradually build up the time spent playing.
Play should be geared toward the appropriate use of toys or other materials.
For example playing with a car, one may imitate the noise the car makes and show the child how to make it move. If we are using play dough, the child can be taught how to use the rolling pin to smooth out the play dough, how to use the scissor to cut it, make balls out of it; they can even learn colors playing with different colors of play dough.
It is important for the caretaker to know how to play with an autistic child, so the children can benefit from leisure activities.
Depending on the child’s ability, you may choose from moderate to difficult challenging activities.
The toys we chose should be visually interesting, and stimulating to the brain as well.
If we choose to read a book for an autistic child,it is advisable to get a colorful book, which may have different textures on different pages, and flaps to capture the child’s interest.
If we decide to engage the child in physical play, they might like to use a swing, a trampoline or other riding toys. The use of a ball can help them develop their hand and eye coordination as well. These activities will give them an opportunity to exercise.
Sing along songs can enable the child to interact with other children, to develop a degree of following directions or commands, and learn sharing.
Allowing the child to engage in computer games can help them to develop and increase their vocabulary.
When playing with a child it is important to maintain eye contact with a child and try to reduce or even stop unwanted behavior, like flapping, biting etc.
Here are some tips for play activities for children developmental ages of 18 months to 24 months… (To find out what developmental age your child is; you may ask his therapist to do a test, or the developmental pediatrician, as well as the school psychologist.)
balls, bean bag toss, bike riding, bingo markers, books, chalk to draw, play dough, body awareness, buttons, computer games, coloring, folding, self care like hair brushing, hula hoops, jumping, lacing, legos, Mr. Potato head, musical toys, puzzles, pull toys, running, playing in sand box, water play, slide, skipping rope, song, sorting, swinging, use of tweezers, zippers.
These are only a few suggestions that you may teach your child if they are labeled as a non-verbal, low functioning autistic child.
The idea is to make learning to play fun, so the child can enjoy this time with you, or if they are alone they might be able to use their time in a productive and fun way.
Asses your child’s ability and introduce activities and toys accordingly. Do not put limitations on your child. When you expose them to a wide variety of things to learn, and have fun with, you will realize that the sky is the limit in what they can do.