It has long been established that children learn best through play. It is through play that they learn about themselves, others and the world around them.
Children’s language and social skills are enhanced as they interact with each other. Creativity and problem-solving skills are also developed as they think of different ways to play with what’s in front of them. Every child enjoys the wonderful benefits of play, whether he is typically developing or has specials needs like autism spectrum disorder.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of the United States government, “Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs or Autism) are a group of developmental disabilities that can cause significant social, communication and behavioural challenges.”
While there are so many factors to be considered in raising children with an autism spectrum disorder, there is one thing that their parents need to do just like any other parents — and that is to let their children play.
Fun and games can play an important part in helping children with autism spectrum disorder thrive. Parents should choose educational games that target specific problem areas such as language, communication and social skills and behaviour. This will be like hitting two (or more) birds with one stone.
Here are some of the best educational games for kids with autism spectrum disorder as recommended by practising child psychiatrist Dr. Celine Germar, MD. Note that these games are not really out of the ordinary, and are also enjoyed by typically developing kids.
Singing traditional nursery rhymes accompanied by actions can go a long way in improving the language skills of kids with autism spectrum disorder. It will do well to sing the songs slowly and do the actions with exaggeration the first time you sing a song.
A game like Thinkfun Roll and Play, which asks kids to perform simple activities, is great for prodding kids to “moo like a cow” and “make a happy face.”
These encourage players to pay close attention to details, a skill that children with autism spectrum disorder need. It will serve as their foundation when trying to understand a person or a situation just from visual cues.
Matching games that feature facial expressions or emotions are then extremely beneficial in terms of a child’s social skills.
Sequencing helps with understanding procedures and telling stories, skills that children with autism spectrum disorder have a hard time mastering.
Card games that ask players to put a scene in order, such as a seed that grows into a tree, provide great practice for sequencing and describing. Match It! Puzzle Games Sequencing is an example of a good sequencing game.
Pretend play builds language skills even when children are playing alone. This is because they try out words and speeches that belong to a role they are playing. When they play a role, like a waiter or a doctor, they also gain understanding and empathy of what that role entails they act accordingly.
Board games are great for all kids, not just those with autism spectrum disorder. With board games, young players learn how to follow directions and take turns. There are board games, too, that will be extra beneficial for those with ASD such as Funny Faces, which asks kids to decode facial expressions.
(Updated April 2016)
Joy of Learning Program @ GIGGLES Play House
You can also take your child to GIGGLES Play House to attend the Joy of Learning Program.
Joy of Learning Program is a play-based enrichment programme designed for children aged between 3 to 8 years old, diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder(ASD), Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder(ADD/ADHD) or other specific learning disabilities.
It is a child-centred and relationship-based program incorporating The Son-Rise Principles. An individualised programme is planned according to the child’s interests and needs. Joy of Learning Program works with children to
– Build their social interactions
– Gain self-confidence & self-esteem
– Increase their interactive attention span
– Develop gross & fine motor skills
The programme aims at enabling each child to become socially successful and develop into motivated and independent learners. In order to develop their interest in learning, the facilitators enter into their world by playing with them through one-on-one sessions.
According to Rowena and David, parents of a Joy of Learning student Nicholas, “GIGGLES’ playroom provides Nicholas, a child diagnosed with Autism, with an opportunity to play with a loving adult that’s outside his own family. A loving and accepting environment allowed him to step out of his comfort zone and appreciate the joy of play, interacting with people as well as stretch his flexibility. It has increased his confidence in initiating conversation with other children.”
The sessions take place weekly and cost $90 for a one hour session and $150 for two hour session.
*Includes unlimited Playtime at GIGGLES Indoor Playground
GIGGLES Play House is located at 87 Marine Parade Central, #02-500B Singapore 440087. They are open daily from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm. They can be reached at 6345 4947 / 9092 2645 or simply visit their website here.
GIGGLES aims to provide edutainment products and services to all children including special needs children. We believe that everyone should have the privilege to Play and Play is essential to a child’s early development. Therefore, our goal is to create an environment that promotes love and inclusiveness, a place where Joy begins for families. We encourage children to play freely with one another developing social and physical skills thus stimulating their own intellectual development.
Choosing the best educational games for a child, with or without autism spectrum disorder, does not end with just buying a toy. Other than the intrinsic benefits that play bring, time spent playing those games together will be more than beneficial for you and your child.