~~ By: Alex Lopiccolo, COTA/L, CPT, NC aka Mr. Alex
You want your child to interact with the world around, make friends and get to know how to be a part of society. Just because he’s on the Autism Spectrum should not prevent him from enjoying a play date or mingling with other kids. Got-Autism guest-blogger Alex Lopiccolo provides some valuable insights on how parents can guide ASD kids on play dates.
When two children on the Autism Spectrum have a play date there can be little to no peer interaction. They may not even make eye contact or be on the same topic. The parent(s) may need to lead the structured play date just like a therapist would during an Occupational Therapy session. But that doesn’t mean kids with Autism cannot have play dates.
Children with Autism may not understand the concept of many toys and you may need to guide them on how to share and play together as a team. As the Wonder Pets would say, “What’s going to work? TEAMWORK!” With Candy Construction, they can use Teamwork to construct a house, railroad, maze, automobile or plane, make a candy pie or anything they agree on with their creative imaginations. Once again, they may need some guidance to get started. Give two or three choices and/or guide a conversation by cueing the kids to ask each other what they would like to do.
Another way to have children work together to build a specific design from the booklet. If they need it, an adult can direct them to take turns finding pieces and placing them in the correct place according to the chosen design. Most children are attracted to candy so you can also use it for a Q & A game of what’s their favorite candy then build the conversation from there to see what things they can bond with.
Manners & Social Skills
Something else that is difficult for children with ASD is manners and other social skills. I need to give verbal prompts every session when teaching children on the spectrum social nuances and manners. The two keys to teaching these skills are frequent repetition and fun learning experiences.
When children with poor social skills are on play dates with children that have typical social skills, they may be seen as mean or rude when they don’t say anything or when they run into others, walk over toys, don’t say please, or burp in someone’s face without knowing or saying “excuse me”. By playing the Blunders board game, children can learn how to work through these real life scenarios.
Adults can also help any kid to recall other instances of when they or their friends might have had to work on manners. By playing this game during a play date, it may also give a neuro-typical child some idea of how their friend sees the world. This is a great game for the Special Ed, Speech Therapy, Art Therapy, Family Counseling, Occupational Therapy, Play Therapy or your household during family time.
Alex Lopiccolo is a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant, Certified Personal Trainer, Nutrition Consultant, Jin Shin Practitioner, Wilbarger Therapressure Brushing Protocol Practitioner, Therapeutic Listening Program Practitioner who explores Sensory Integration inspired therapeutic activities. Alex, his wife and baby live in Edmonds, Washington. His favorite activities are spending time with his family and exploring the Pacific Northwest.