Learning Activities for Autistic Kids

Autistic children can greatly benefit from engaging in learning activities. These activities will not only improve their cognitive development but will also promote social skills and overall wellbeing. When engaging in such activities and games it is important to ensure these are tailored to their unique needs. Therefore, provide a supportive environment that includes appropriate activities, games, and toys. 

In this article, we will explore various learning activities, games, and toys specifically designed to engage and benefit autistic children.

How Different Levels of Autism Affect Learning

Autism can affect learning in many different ways. Some of the most common differences include a slow development of social skills, challenges with communication, higher levels of anxiety concerning learning and the education environment, and difficulty with processing information quickly. 

Depending on the severity or level of autism, children will experience these difficulties differently. 

There are three levels of autism that are used to classify where a child lies on the spectrum. These three levels are classified as: 

ASD level 1: requiring support

Considered to be the mildest form of autism, children classified under level 1 are highly functioning. They will typically struggle to understand social cues and maintain strong and long-lasting relationships. 

When it comes to learning, these children will experience difficulty when switching from one task to another, planning, and organisation. 

ASD level 2: requiring substantial support

At level 2, children will typically struggle to communicate verbally and non-verbally. Their inflexibility will also be more pronounced, which often manifests in repetitive behaviours. Therefore, these children will not cope well with changes in routine or environment.

This level of autism is, therefore, more severe and can be observed more easily due to their repetitive behaviour and struggles with communication. 

ASD level 3: requiring very substantial support

The most severe form of autism is level 3 and is very noticeable. These children experience extreme difficulty with social communication and cannot handle any deviation in routine, making them extremely inflexible. 

In terms of communication, these children are only able to use a few words and are hard to understand. Their response to social interaction is very low and it is difficult for them to initiate an interaction. Most interactions at this level are to address their immediate needs. 

Their ability to handle changes in routine, environment, or between tasks is very limited, with each of these changes causing distress to the child. Therefore, they demonstrate an extreme amount of repetitive and restrictive behaviour that often affects their ability to properly function. 

The Key to Working with Autistic Children

These different levels of autism and the fact that each individual child requires a different level of attention, makes a one-size-fits-all solution to working with autistic children impossible. Each child needs to be assessed individually, and their challenges should be identified. 

Once their struggles have been identified, you can determine how to effectively work with an autistic child. 

However, the only common requirement when working with any autistic child, is to practise patience and empathy. 

Learning Activities for Kids with Autism

In order to stimulate learning in children with autism, it's important to focus on activities that cater to their unique strengths and interests while considering their individual needs and learning styles. Each of the activities we will be mentioning can be adjusted to better serve a child’s level of autism. 

Structured play

As autistic children enjoy the safety that structure provides, it can be useful to introduce them to playful activities that are based on structure. Such activities include building puzzles or Lego. 

Puzzles are a very repetitive activity, which is comforting to these children. It can be beneficial to offer them puzzles of varying difficulty to enhance cognitive skills, visual perception, and hand-eye coordination.

Both Lego and building blocks will promote creativity and problem-solving, as well as the development of fine motor skills.

Life skills training

Paying attention to the development of life skills will not only help autistic children become more self-sufficient, but it will also teach them other essential skills. 

It’s a good idea to involve children in simple cooking or baking activities, which can help develop math skills, sequencing abilities, and promote independence.

Involving children in daily living tasks will allow them to practise essential life skills. Such tasks can include dressing, personal hygiene, or grocery shopping, to enhance independence and self-care abilities.

Social skills development

As autistic children tend to struggle with social interaction and communication, it will be good to expose them to certain activities that are designed to develop their social skills. 

Engage in role-playing that allows children to practise social skills, such as greetings, turn-taking, and problem-solving. This can include the use of puppets or dolls to act out social scenarios. 

Tell them stories that deal with social interaction. To create these social stories, use pictures or written narratives that will teach them about specific social situations and appropriate behaviours.

Visual supports

When it comes to learning and schooling, it is important to make use of visual supports to make the process easier for an autistic child. These visual aids can include visual schedules and cues. 

Create visual schedules using pictures or symbols to help children understand and follow a structured routine. These routines will help those with autism feel safe and calm while learning. 

In terms of visual cues and prompts, make use of tools such as visual timers, to help children understand the concept of time and transition between activities.

Technology-assisted learning

When focusing on education, utilise interactive educational apps designed for children with autism, which that focus on building various skills, such as language development, math, or social skills.

It can also be beneficial to make use of augmented reality (AR) games. These games provide interactive and visually stimulating experiences, helping children engage with learning content in a fun and immersive way.

Utilising Sensory Toys for Autism 

Utilising sensory toys for autism learning can be highly effective in engaging autistic children and promoting their learning and development. 

Each autistic child has unique sensory preferences and sensitivities. Observe and understand their reactions to different sensory inputs, such as textures, sounds, lights, and movements. This will help you select appropriate toys that align with their preferences and provide a positive sensory experience.

It is advisable to offer a wide range of sensory toys that target different sensory modalities, such as tactile, auditory, visual, and proprioceptive. This allows children to explore and engage with various sensations, stimulating their senses and supporting sensory integration.

As children with autism enjoy routine, it will be beneficial to establish a dedicated time for sensory play, where the child can freely explore and interact with their toys. Create a calm and quiet environment to minimise distractions and create a comfortable space for the child to focus on the sensory experience.

These toys can also be used as tools to encourage communication and self-expression. For non-verbal children, provide toys that allow them to communicate their preferences or emotions, such as using a picture exchange system or a visual schedule. 

For verbal children, engage in open-ended conversations about the sensory experiences they are having with the toys.

Learning Through Games for Autistic Kids

Games provide an interactive and engaging way to develop various skills while promoting social interaction and enjoyment. Therefore, incorporating games into an autistic child’s routine can greatly benefit their social, emotional, and educational journey. 

Some of the interactive games to include in a child’s routine include the following:

  • Social skills: try to find board games that focus on social interaction, turn-taking, and understanding emotions. It can also be helpful to play games, such as charades, as this will require a child to act out emotions, social scenarios, or everyday activities. This helps develop non-verbal communication, empathy, and social cognition.
  • Cooperative and group movement: find cooperative board games where players work together to achieve a common goal. This will foster teamwork, communication, and collaboration. Try group movement activities, such as ‘Follow the Leader’, which will promote social interaction, turn-taking, and following instructions.
  • Language and communication: to enhance language skills, imagination, and narrative abilities; play games that encourage children to create and tell stories using picture cards or story prompts.
  • Math and cognitive: to improve number recognition, counting, and basic arithmetic skills; play games that use dice, number cards, or counting objects.
  • Problem-solving and strategy: games such as chess, checkers, or Connect Four will help to improve a child’s planning, strategic thinking, and problem-solving abilities.
  • Fine motor skills: to develop fine-motor skills, try tactile sensory games or sorting and stacking games. For example, set up sensory bins or trays filled with materials like rice, sand, or beads and hide small objects or letters for children to find using their fine motor skills.
  • Gross motor skills: games that focus on improving gross motor skills include games such as ‘Simon Says’ and obstacle courses. Activities such as crawling under objects, performing jumping jacks, skipping, and more will encourage children to refine their gross motor skills. 

In conclusion, by incorporating sensory activities, educational games, communication and socialisation exercises, into an autistic child’s routine, parents and educators can create a nurturing environment that supports each child’s unique needs. 

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Learning Activities for Autistic Kids

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Learning Activities for Autistic Kids

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