How to Encourage Play for Children with Autism


Playtime helps all children develop communication, social, cognitive, and motor skills. For children with autism, difficulties with language, social skills, and motor skills may be present. In addition, pretend play skills can be delayed. Here are some tips on how to encourage play for children with autism.


Follow your child’s lead: You will likely find play is successful when you engage in activities your child already enjoys. Include a variety of toys that can facilitate a range of play skills - pretend play props, balls, blocks, trains, puppets, and bubbles.


Include peer models: COVID has presented a challenge in this area, but when possible, select peers that share common interests and have age-appropriate communication skills. Meeting at play groups and playgrounds is a great way to expose your child to social situations and other children playing. In the meantime, Zoom playdates or watching videos of peers can be helpful as well.


Take turns: Simple turn-taking activities, such as rolling a ball or tossing beanbags, can help reinforce play skills and help your child better interact with others. Even nonverbal cues can be used to indicate when it's “my turn” and help your child make the connection between interacting with others and taking turns enjoying an activity together.


Model: Modeling language or a play activity is a great way for a child to pick up new skills by observing and imitating. If there are no other children, using videos or visuals is helpful for a child become familiar with an activity.

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