Brain Games for Autism
Educational games are a great way to engage with someone who struggles with an autism spectrum disorder. From board games to pretend play, these games can challenge your child's brain while providing a safe environment for social interaction.
One of the most popular games in the world, chess, offers some unique advantages for the autistic brain. The rules are clear and concrete, and there's very little randomness or unpredictability. However, the turn-taking and social aspect of the game provide a great educational challenge for people on the autism spectrum.
Puzzles for Visual Learners
Many people with autism are visual learners and are attracted to shapes, colors, and pictures. You can make a game out of this strength if you work together to assemble a jigsaw puzzle. You can take turns placing pieces to work on social and language skills. To work on functional communication, you can require the individual with autism to request a piece. Both social skills and communication are essential for academic success, so strengthening these skills is very important. Choose a puzzle that reflects the individual's skill level and area of interest.
Building Block Game for Learning Colors
It's common for people on the spectrum to have exceptional spatial skills, which makes building toys and games a very effective way to teach educational concepts like colors. To play a game with building blocks, sort the blocks according to color. Then explain that the ASD child must correctly name the color in order to receive the block. Each time he or she says the right color, present the block. For older children and adults, expand this game by requiring the individual to spell the color or to name another object with that color.
You can strengthen math skills and improve social routines in a child with autism by playing store. To play, set up pretend fruits, vegetables, and other foods to make a "store." Have the child with autism work the play cash register, while you shop. Work on counting money, adding prices, and participating appropriately in this common childhood game. After the child with autism has learned the cashier role, switch roles to develop familiarity with both.
Attending to directions and sorting out important information can be a challenge for many people with autism, and this can directly affect kids' academic performance. However, you can work on these skills by playing listening games like Simon Says. Remind the child often that he or she should only perform the action requested when it's prefaced by the words "Simon says...." This is also a great way to improve social skills by learning a familiar playground game.
Tangram and Shape Games
While many children with autism are visual learners, others struggle with this way of learning. Visual processing is essential for reading, math, and general academic success. If your child is an auditory learner and finds visual processing difficult, you can strengthen this skill by playing a shape game like tangram. You can find a tangram game at any toy or bookstore, and your child probably has access to one in his or her classroom. To make this game fun for auditory learners, describe each shape in detail together. Then ask the child to build the same shape.
20 Questions and Other Verbal Games
Verbal games are another great way to encourage interaction and build academic skills with children on the autism spectrum. Try 20 Questions, which can help work on categorization and question-asking. Think of an item, and have the child ask increasingly specific questions to find out what it is. You can also try I Spy, which can help with shared attention, as the child tries to find out what you're looking at.
You can also try printable games for autism to work on even more social, communication, and academic skills. Try several games to find one that works for you and your child.