It is essential that children with autism learn to play alone, in addition to learning social play skills. Read this post next for tips on how to teach an autistic child.
Why is it important to teach a child with autism to play alone?
Your child needs to learn to play alone
Your child needs to learn to do independent activities! This is so important for cerebral development. By learning to engage in independent activities your child will be less bored, engaged in less destructive and/or non-functional behavior and have less of a tendancy to engage in overly repetitive behavior.
As a parent, you need your child with autism to learn to play alone
You need time to yourself. You also need time to clean, get the dishes done, to sit down, to have a coffee, and the list goes on and on… You can’t, and shouldnt have to, occupy every moment of your child’s time. Particularly as your child gets older (4 and up), it is important that he or she learn to occupy time in a fun and functional way!
Steps to teach an autistic child to play alone
1. Enrich your environment.
In order to be able to teach your child play alone skills, you will need to organize the space. Start by creating a a dedicated progress nook.
Then, use this autism gift guide to select the materials you need for your home program.
2. Organize each box or basket by activity.
Each box or basket should contain one activity.
3. Label each box or basket with a clear photo that shows the activity inside.
This photo will enable the child to choose the activity he or she wants to do and to put the activity away once complete.
4. Teach your child to interact with materials in a scheduled setting first.
This means before you can expect your little one to pick up a basket of toys and play with them appropriately on his or her own, you will need to put aside some time to teach the function of those materials at the table or on the floor in a scheduled play / work session. Prepare a box with 5-7 toys inside. Put aside 5-10 minutes and show your child how to use the toys in a fun and appropriate way.
5. Show your child what you expect from their independent play.
Your child will be excited to learn about independent play as it opens up a whole new world of possibilities. However, it may not seem that way at first. Your child may resist being shown how to play independently in a functional way.
He or she may try to leave the situation when you are showing the steps towards functional independent play. This may leave you feeling that your child is absolutely anything but super excited to be invited into this whole new world of play!
Don’t worry, it will get easier, and more rewarding, for both you and your child soon. In the meantime, keep going. Keep showing what you mean by functional and independent play.
6. Give your child lots of praise!
When your child starts playing independently, make sure you take notice! Give lots of praise. Come into your child’s play space (bedroom, living room, etc.) and tell your child what a great job he or she is doing playing all alone.
This is really important even if your child is not speaking. When teaching an autistic child to play alone, it is really important to teach skills steps by step and to offer lots of quality reinforcement!
Remember : just because a child doesn’t speak, doesn’t mean that he or she can’t hear you and understand what you are saying. Autistic children often have a hard time expressing themselves verbally but have a high level of receptive comprehension. Give lots of verbal praise. It is sure to make you, and your little one, feel amazing!
5 Play alone activities to teach your child with autism right now
Set your child up with easy, play alone, play dough activities.
Light table projects are perfect for teaching your child to play alone.
I love this simple sensory activity for teaching children with autism to do simple activities alone.
This easy fine motor activity for kids with autism can be done alone as well.
5. Calm down corner.
Have your child spend some time alone in his or her individual calm down corner.
Play Alone Activities for Kids with Autism
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