Music can be a powerful tool in helping autistic children to learn social skills. Schools sometimes use songs to mark activities such as tidy-up time or snack time. Many autistic children respond to musical prompts, and even if they are nonverbal, they may learn to hum along or perform simple group actions.
Musical social skills activities for children with autism include the playing of basic instruments such as triangles, tambourines and recorders. These are often used in a band setting at school and help the child to learn to work with other children.
Quiet music in the background can be soothing for some children with autism and will help them to relax when interacting with others.
Games that Help Develop Social Skills
Childhood games can help an autistic child interact with others. These range from playground games to board games in a classroom setting. When arranging games for autistic children, be careful of those that may require too much physical contact and those accompanied by high levels of noise. Playground games such as hide and seek, skipping, ball throwing and follow my leader are all recommended as good social activities for autistic children.
I spy is another game that stimulates social interaction and can be played at home, school or in the car. Board games can be helpful as they teach a number of social skills such as taking turns, waiting and listening. Start with simple games such as Snakes and Ladders and progress to more complex ones as the child matures. Games that relate to a child’s special interests can be useful.
Playing games with brothers and sisters or children without autism can provide an autistic child with good role models of how to behave socially and take turns.
Sports that Help Develop Social Skills
Older autistic children may enjoy organized sports such as golf and baseball. Be careful of sports that have high levels of noise and physical contact as these may do more harm than good. Ensure that sports coaches are aware of the child’s autism and praise the child as he or she learns to take turns and listen to instructions.
Sports that require communication between team members are good for teaching social skills to autistic children. Hand signals are used in some sports and verbal commands in others. If the child enjoys the activity, it can motivate them to become more communicative with their peers. Sports can also teach a child to be a good winner or loser, to respect referees and those in authority, to encourage team mates who may be having a bad day, and to resolve conflicts between team members.
Social skills activities for children with autism can be extremely helpful in developing communication and friendship. If the child is exposed to a variety of activities, they are bound to progress, even if it is in small steps. To be most effective, activities should be arranged with the child’s age, interests and ability in mind.