There are many activities for autistic adults of all skill levels. Educational and recreational activities that can enhance a person with autism's life quality are available in many communities. Learn about activities for autistic adults as well as how to select the right ones for your loved one.
Activities for Adults with Autism Overview
In general, people with autism enjoy the same type of activities that neurotypical (nonautistic) people like. Like everyone else, people with autism enjoy a range of recreational and educational activities depending on their tastes. However, certain sensory processing issues or social impairments may limit some activities involving a sensory trigger or negative social encounter. A person's tastes, interests and level of impairment all play a part in determining what type of activities he prefers.
Activities can improve autism symptoms by providing chances for social interaction, improving communication skills, language and providing sensory stimulation. Many autism treatments involve therapeutic activities or are compatible with extracurricular activities that provide benefits.
Types of Activities for Autistic Adults
Activities for people with autism generally falls within the categories of educational, social interaction and recreational. Some activities serve multiple purposes. For example, some group games can increase communication ability and help improve social interaction skills.
Some examples of activities for adults with autism are:
- Art classes
- Music class
- Martial arts
- Drama club
- Card games and board games
- Online computer games
Both inclusive activities for both autistic and nonautistic people as well as activities designed for those with special needs are beneficial.
Educational activities are important to enhance existing therapies and provide as many opportunities to improve communication, language and academic skills. Activities that provide educational benefit include:
- Life skills: Life skill activities teach a person with autism details about self-care, daily life maintenance issues and general safety to help him become as independent as possible. Some special needs programs with this focus help autistic people prepare for independent living situations.
- Language: Language activities focus on increasing a person's vocabulary or using a nonverbal language system in place of spoken language. These types of activities often accompany speech therapy. For example, a singing class can encourage spoken language, introduce new vocabulary and improve an autistic person's social skills.
- Communication: Many activities promote communication skills and improve the way a person with autism understands and relays information. For example, a simple game of Monopoly requires the autistic person to interact socially, convey information and understand his opponent's position in the game.
Social Interaction Activities
Social interaction activities are important to help an autistic person who prefers solitude to expand his comfort level when interacting with others. Social interaction activities may involve any activity that includes a group of people and promotes communication within that group. Examples of social interaction activities are as follows:
- Social Stories: Social Stories, developed by The Gray Center, are helpful for both adults and children with autism. A social story presents an example of a social situation and provides the correct response to the situation, teaching the person with autism about social cues and appropriate responses.
- Sensory integration: Sensory integration activities allow a person with autism to improve responses to certain stimuli. A therapist often recommends certain activities to assist with sensory processing problems. Examples of activities that may improve sensory processing are group sports activity, gymnastics, swinging or creating a sensory room. (If the person uses a swing, the caregiver should assist with pushing the swing and encourage him to make eye contact and communicate when he wants to be pushed.)
- Games: Games that require two or more players and any type of communication encourage social interaction.
Many educational and social interaction activities are also recreational activities that provide additional benefits. However, recreational activities generally refer to any activity that a person with autism might enjoy for fun. Examples of recreational activities include:
- Going to a movie
- Reading a book
- Singing in a choir
- Playing tennis
- A Chess match
- Listening to music
Many recreational activities are things that families and friends can do informally with an autistic loved one. Some nonprofit organizations and autism support groups also have organized recreational activities designed specifically for people with autism and their families.
Tips for Selecting Activities
So how do you decide which activities are right for your loved one? Consider the following tips when selecting an activity for adults with autism:
- Level of impairment: Choose activities that are appropriate for your loved one's level of impairment. If the person with autism requires special assistance to participate in the activity, make sure that the activity organizer can provide the right support services.
- Interests: Select activities that interest the person with autism. If he has a favorite subject, find activities that match his interest in order to encourage participation and maximize activity benefits.
- Daily activities: Encourage language, communication and social skill improvement in all daily activities by providing an example of ideal social behavior, encouraging eye contact and maintaining a strict routine.
- Inclusion or special needs activities: Determine if the autistic person will thrive in an inclusive activity with nonautistic people or in a special needs environment. Proponents of inclusive environments claim that people with autism improve by modeling themselves after their nonautistic peers. However, critics claim that many organizers of inclusive activities are uneducated about autism and that special need environments best meet the needs of autistic individuals. Research each activity and think about how your loved one will fit into the environment.
If may take some research and a better understanding of the activities that appeal to your loved one to find the right activity for an adult with autism. However, it is worth the time investment because of all of the potential benefits of the right autism activities.