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Preschool activities for autistic children are often the same activities we do with other preschool children. The difference is in the purpose of doing the activity and the benefits of each one. This collection of preschool activities for autistic children comes with detailed instructions on how to conduct the activity. Try them out in your preschool classroom to help your autistic children develop their sensory processing skills.
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Obstacle course is a popular game for preschoolers. Children with autism can gain a lot in this activity as it provides a variety of sensory experiences. However, we need to keep some things in mind while doing this activity with autistic children.
The last activity on the obstacle course needs to be highly enjoyable for the child. This will serve as a motivator to go through the other activities.
Customizing the course
You may need to modify the obstacle course slightly for each child. This is because the activities should be fun and a little challenging, but not frustrating or intolerable for a child. If a child is very hypersensitive, you may want to exclude activities that include walking on rough surfaces. Another option is to decrease the time the child needs to do the activity. The child only has to walk two steps on the rough surface.
Processing sensory information:
Children with autism may need some time to process the sensory stimulation they are receiving. For this reason, the obstacle course should not have too many types of activities. Moreover, while the child is going from one obstacle to another, he or she may need a few seconds between changing activities. Allow the child to enjoy the activities and not hurry up.
Role of the teacher:
The role of the teacher during this activity is to be with the child and be very sensitive to the needs of the child. The teacher needs to encourage and support the child to attempt every obstacle, even if it seems difficult. The teacher can modify the course even during the game, depending on each child.
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For this game, you need to make a dark tunnel – either with furniture and some blankets, or using a children’s plastic tunnel. This game again gives sensory experiences to the child. The child also learns to follow sounds in the dark.
For this activity, we encourage the child to partly go into the tunnel. After that the teacher, or the teacher’s assistant calls out to the child from the other end of the tunnel.
The person calling out from the other end of the tunnel can also use one of the child’s favorite noisemaking toys to encourage the child to come to the other side. Once the child reaches the other side, the child is given an opportunity to play with the toy. The activity is then repeated.
The teacher’s role in this game is again to support and encourage the child. By talking to the child, and helping the child hear familiar sounds, the teacher helps the child to feel safe even in the dark.
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This is a tactile activity which is also very important for sensory experiences. If a child with autism is too hypersensitive to sand and refuses to touch it completely, you can use rice, grains, pulses, or any other less irritating medium for the child instead.
In this game, we fill a bag or bucket with sand. Next, we show the child that we are hiding a favorite toy in the bucket. Then we ask the child to put his or her hands into the bucket and take the toy out.
In this game, the toy serves as the motivator. Allow the child to play with the toy a few minutes before you hide it again.
The child may be hesitant to place hands into the bucket. The teacher’s role is to guide the child’s hands to find the toy.
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This is another familiar art activity for preschoolers that provides tactile experiences for children with autism, which in turn helps the development of their sensory processing systems.
Hand painting is great for autistic children who struggle with tactile sensations but love art.
For some children, the colors and the paints themselves will be a motivator. For others, you may have to tell them that if they complete painting one page/ poster, you will allow them to do another activity that they enjoy.
Children with tactile difficulties will not like the paint on their hands. They may want to wash their hands and try to use a brush instead. Keep plenty of water in a tub or bucket nearby so that the children can wash their hands if they want to. However, try to get the child involved in the art aspect of the activity, to distract them from the sensations.
You can also add some flour or sand to the paint to change the texture, and make the activity a little more challenging.
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Follow the Leader
Follow the leader is a great activity for sensory integration. It also helps to improve imitation skills, which are often not developed well in autistic children. In this activity, the teacher does an action and all the children imitate it.
This activity may be difficult to do in a large group. A group of 3 or 4 children is ideal. Some children with autism may need special assistance to help them imitate.
The actions can be a motivator, for children with autism. Children will like actions like jumping, rolling, spinning, standing on one leg, crawling etc.
Thus, these are a few great preschool activities for autistic children. Use them with autistic children, and create some more of your own. All the best.