Bubble wrap and tickles: playtime with autism

When our son Gus was little, the friends and family members we’d visit over the holidays weren’t always sure how to engage him in play. Gus liked to be touched, for example, but you had to approach and engage with him slowly.

If you’ll be visiting friends or families who have children with autism the next couple weeks, the Autism Society of America offers a list of suggestions for parents about engaging children in play, taken from “The Child With Autism” series by Kathy Labosh. Maybe a few of their tips (popping bubble wrap bubbles or using scarves to tickle, for example) will give you ideas of ways to engage the children with autism you’ll be visiting.

Tips of the Day — Playtime

  • Cover the kitchen table with protective paper and let your child finger paint.
  • Let your child paint with shaving cream in the bathtub.
  • Bury small prizes in a box of dried beans or rice for your child to find.
  • Fill an empty coffee can with dried beans for your child to shake.
  • Hide trinkets inside a ball of clay or playdough for your child to find.
  • Fill a dishpan with warm water and dishwashing bubbles and place outside; let your child splash and wash waterproof toys.
  • To engage your child in play, walk toward her with your fingers wiggling to tickle her; chase her around the house until you catch her and tickle her.
  • Make an art project with glitter and glue.
  • Let your child pop the bubbles on bubble wrap using his hands, fingers and feet.
  • Roll and bounce your child on a large exercise ball.
  • Wrap your child in a blanket and have two people swing him.
  • Use felt boards to illustrate stories; let your child place the people in the scene.
  • To help your child prepare for activity transitions, warn him five to ten minutes before you change activities.
  • To tickle your child, run scarves through her hands and around her neck.
  • Let your child wave lightweight scarves; he will enjoy seeing the colors and fabrics move.
  • Let your child show you what he wants by offering your hand and letting him take you where he wants to go.

Most of all … have fun!


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