Children with autism often do not develop play in the same way as other
children of their age. Play can be difficult for them. If you encourage and
help your child to play it can have many benefits:
• Develops language.
• Helps understanding of social situations.
• Encourages questioning.
If you reward your child during and after the play session it will mean they
may want to take part again. Gradually involve other family members, but
to begin, it is better to do smaller steps, one to one.
HOW CAN I HELP?
- Take away other distractions before you begin to play with your child, eg, turn off the TV, phones, etc. Do not allow yourself to be distracted. Keep the child’s focus on being with you.
- Don’t play if you are tired, stressed or anxious. Five minutes of good, energetic play is better than an hour of feeling as if you have to play. It should feel like fun, not a struggle. Stop if it becomes a chore.
- If your child does a repetitive behaviour you could try doing it with them to show you want to be with them more than doing what you were doing. Gradually, you can start to expand on this making it into two way play rather than solitary play.
- Be prepared that your child may react negatively to this. Remember that play may be difficult and you may need to keep trying before your child learns that It is fun.
- Don’t ask lots of questions during play. Make statements e.g. ‘That’s a great tower you’re making’ or describe how you are feeling instead.
- Join in their chosen activity. Really try and experience what they are doing.
- Praise them at regular intervals. Remember, play may be difficult for them.
- Start with what your child likes to do. Then use your imagination and develop it.
- Play with anything that uses your imagination e.g. boxes, paper, feathers, bubbles, blocks, stickers, wigs, musical instruments, scarves...
- Don’t put out lots of different toys. Put a few toys on a high shelf to help encourage the child to make a request.
- Allow your child to play in a way that is natural to him e.g. if your son asks to play with dolls allow him the opportunity to learn through this experience.