An obstacle course for children with autism can build gross motor skills while developing important processing skills.
Benefits of an Obstacle Course for Children with Autism
Benefits of using an obstacle course for children with autism are great, and the project does more than offer gross motor activities. This type of activity can address a number of issues, and the treatment team can incorporate specific goals into the plan. The course can be altered to suit children of different ability levels.
Sequencing and Attention
An obstacle course is a sequencing activity that requires attention and memory. If a child has a treatment plan goal of staying on task, an obstacle course can serve as a useful tool because the child has to complete one part of the course before moving on to the other. The activity has a beginning, middle and end, which is an important feature for kids learning how to sequence.
Receptive processing involves the ability to understand, or to process information. The skills are important for children learning how to follow directions because they have to process the commands and demonstrate understanding through their actions. A few specific activities are common in receptive processing activities:
- Arms up
Adding receptive commands into the obstacle course is a great way to test how well a child processes spoken directions. For example, if a child goes through two steps in the course, spontaneously adding, "Show me arms up!" into the mix can give insight into receptive processing skills.
Following directions, especially spoken requests, can be very challenging for many kids on the spectrum. An obstacle course for children with autism can be designed to work with just one step directions, and continue to several steps, depending on the child's level. For example, if a treatment plan goal is to follow three step directions without prompting, a therapist may use an obstacle course that has three stations to work toward that objective.
An obstacle course is a fantastic tool for developing gross motor skills while providing sensory stimulation. The activity is enjoyable for many kids, and they are motivated to take on new challenges when they love the activity. Some issues in motor skills may make kids apprehensive to participate in physical activities, but a course offers them piecemeal, which can be much less intimidating.
Choosing Obstacle Course Activities
Each station can be a motivating tool for learning, especially when activities work with the child's strengths and needs. Creating a balance between the two is important because too many activities that deal with needs can become frustrating; too many activities that work with strengths may not be challenging enough.
Activities for obstacle courses for kids with autism include:
- Dribbling a ball
- Put balls in a container
- Balance beam
- Jump rope
- Push a train or car
- Crawl through a tunnel
- Bowling pins
- Ride a tricycle
- Step in and out of a box
- Step between the rungs of a ladder
- Walk on chalk footprints
- Shake pom poms
Select activities according to the child's behavior as well. For example, a child who engages in excessive hand flapping may benefit from a station that allows her to shake maracas or pom poms. A child who is fascinated with trains may be motivated to get to push a train during the course.Children learning how to read can benefit from visiting stations that have a choice of two or three activities. Use signs posted at the station and prompt the child to do the activity he or she chooses. The child learns to identify the word through the activity.
You can begin with a single station and add stations as the child masters each step. Alternate challenging activities with preferred activities, usually beginning with something that is fun for the child. Lessons learned in an obstacle course for children with autism can be used in general settings over time. The activity can be very motivating and it can help build confidence as new skills are mastered.