Children with autism usually have difficulties with their social skills and language. This is why group activities are so beneficial for them; however, they must not be too demanding or stressful. Here are four great group activities for kids with autism that can be simplified according to their abilities. The most important thing to keep in mind while conducting these activities is to make them fun and enjoyable. When the children are having fun, they are a lot more comfortable and do much better.
Tactile Obstacle Course:
This activity addresses sensory issues seen in children with autism, and can be done as a group activity. Make an obstacle course with different types of textures on the floor. For example, sand, rice, cotton, pillows or a mattress, a rough sack or towel, sand with stones etc. The course only requires the child to walk on the various surfaces. Children sit around the course so that they can see each other navigating it.
They take turns one by one to walk over the course. The children must be allowed to walk at their own pace and be given time to pause if they want to. If any children are finding it too difficult, the teacher can allow them to skip a few obstacles. Once the child reaches the end he or she can be given a sensory reward like jumping on a trampoline or swinging on a swing, and/or all the children can clap for the child.
Animal Sounds Game:
This is one of the favorite group activities for kids with autism. For this activity you need a set of picture cards with animal pictures or a set of plastic animals. Put the cards or animals in a box. The children need to sit in a circle. The teacher offers the box to one child at a time and asks them to pick a card. The child must then look at the card and make the sound that that animal makes. Then the child has to show the card to the rest of the children and everyone has to make the same animal sound. Then it is the next child’s turn. In addition to learning to play in a group, the children get to practice sounds which helps to further develop their verbal communication.
Follow the Leader Game:
In this game children sit in a circle. Any one child (or the teacher initially) performs an action and the rest of the class has to imitate it. Everyone then claps and appreciates the child who is the leader. Then it’s the next child’s turn, where he or she must perform another action, and all the children have to imitate it. This game encourages children to watch those around them, and participate in a group. Some of the children may not be able to initiate the action immediately, so they may need help. In addition children may need the help of the teacher to come up with new actions.
Passing the Handshake:
In this game the children sit in a circle and music is played. The first child shakes the hand of the person next to him or her; this child then shakes hands with the child on their other side and so on. In this manner, the handshake is passed around the circle. When the music stops the two children who are shaking hands have to stand up and introduce themselves to the group. This game is aimed at developing social skills in children with autism. To make the game a little more complex, the teacher can ask the children to look at the other child’s eyes as they shake hands.
I hope you enjoyed these great ideas for group activities for kids with autism. You may need to modify them according to the setting, the resources available as well as the children. Here is another collection of activities and games for autistic children.
NB: These ideas and suggestions are based on my professional experience as an Occupational Therapist.