Tag Archives: increasing appropriate play skills

Gross motor activities to keep your kids active this summer

Gross motor activities for kids are incredibly important in the development of their gross motor skills. As school wraps up, you may find yourself with kiddos who have tremendous amounts of energy to burn this summer! These seven gross motor activities for autistic children  include activities that improve social skills while improving gross motor development. These skills are good for kids with autism but can easily be adapted to be fun for their siblings or peers!

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1. Jump on a Trampoline

Around here, the trampoline is a highly preferred activity for many of our kids with autism. Bouncing offers excellent sensory input that can be helpful in alleviating sensory overload. If you don’t have access to a trampoline at home, places like Flipzone in Plainfield and Skyzone in Fishers can be a fun day trip. If well supervised, jumping on a bed can also provide satisfaction!

2. Play Ball

Sometimes, simple activities that other kids can master easily might be very challenging for kids with autism. Catching the ball may not be realistic as a beginning step but you can work your way up that over time. Begin by rolling a ball back-and-forth with the kiddo. This simple task develops important eye tracking skills and it can encourage motor planning as the child follows the movement of the ball. Other activities include:

  • Kicking the ball
  • Learning to dribble
  • Bouncing on a ball
  • Tossing a ball into a net or target

3. Balancing

Balancing can also be very challenging for kids on the autism spectrum and many gross motor tasks require a sense of balance. Test to see if the kiddo can stand motionless with her eyes closed without losing balance to gauge how much work is necessary to develop balancing skills. You can start by using painter tape on the floor or a practice balance beam for them to follow. Balancing see-saws or playing hopscotch can also be fun for kids practicing this skill.

4. Bicycles and Tricycles

Riding bikes can help develop kiddos with balance as well as developing leg muscles. Bikes and trikes can be adapted to kiddos to make riding them easier. Indy Area Ambucs can answer questions or help find bikes appropriate for kiddos. Who doesn’t love biking on a summer afternoon? Don’t forget to outfit kids with protective helmets and other equipment 🙂

5. Pretend Play

Participating in pretend play is a considerable challenge for kiddos with autism. In some of these activities, kids can benefit from moving around while developing their imaginations. Ideas for pretend play that uses motor skills include:

  • Fly like an airplane
  • Hop like a bunny
  • Play restaurant at snack time
  • Do a crab walk
  • Do a frog jump
  • Slither like a snake
  • Gallop or trot like a horse

6. Dance

 Parents and therapists can use dancing with music to encourage imitation and it can be a great way to teach daily living skills. Dance ideas include:

  • Clean It Up
  • Freeze Dance
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Wiggle the Sillies Out
  • Hokey Pokey

7. Obstacle Course

In addition to improving gross motor skills, obstacle courses can be a great way to encourage kiddos to follow directions!  The course does not have to be complex to be effective. In fact, parents and therapists can begin with a course consisting of one step and gradually introduce other steps to the activity. Simple ideas for an obstacle course include:

  • Crab walk
  • Frog jump
  • Ball toss
  • Jump rope
  • Limbo bar
  • Walk a line or paint tape design
  • Climb over objects
  • Beanbag toss
  • Crawling through a tunnel or a cardboard box
  • Roll along mats or underneath obstacles obstacle_ladderrun1_l
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How to get your child to follow directions in 5 easy steps

Mother and daughter playing with ball in the park

Many parents of children with and without disabilities often struggle with getting get their child to listen to them or follow directions. Here are 5 simple steps we’ve compiled  to follow to help teach your child to listen and follow directions.

  1. Get close to your child before you start talking or giving a direction. It is suggested that you are less than 5 feet from your child before giving any directions. If your child can’t hear you or understand you, they can’t follow your directions!
  2. Gain eye contact with your child. This will get their attention and provide a good opening to give a direction. You may need to prompt eye contact by calling their name. For example, “Johnny, look at me” or use physical guidance to move their face toward yours. ALWAYS praise them for looking at you.
  3. Once you are close and have eye contact give a clear and concise direction.  When giving a direction make it a command or statement, do not make it a question. Instead of saying, “Can you get your backpack”, say, “Get your backpack”. At first it might be necessary to use only simple one-step directions in order to avoid confusion.
  4. Praise and reward your child for every direction that is followed and for all attempts to follow directions. If your child attempts to follow the directions but can’t quite get it done, praise them for trying and help them complete it. Praise and rewards should follow immediately. Avoid negative statements like “That’s not what I asked you to do” and “You aren’t listening to me” and ignore mistakes, remember at least they are trying.
  5. ALWAYS follow through. Make sure your child completes what you ask them to do even if physical guidance (i.e., hand over hand) is needed. In order to avoid empty threats or promises, only issue the directions if you are 100% committed to making sure that your child follows through. Don’t allow your child to avoid or escape directions placed upon them, as you want your child to learn that when you give them a direction the expectation is that it will be followed or you will help.

Remember learning should be fun. The more excited you are about it, the more excited your child will be to do it. You can also make a game of learning to follow directions. Hide a quarter (or something the child likes) somewhere in a room. Tell the child that he may have the item if he will listen to your directions and follow them exactly. Remember give the directions only once and if they find the item they get to keep it.

 

– guest blogger, Chrissy Barosky, MA BCBA

Manager of Clinical Development, Bierman ABA Autism Centers 

Tips for Increasing Appropriate Play Skills

Children on the Autism Spectrum often do not engage in appropriate play.  Play may involve manipulating a toy inappropriately or playing with only one part of a preferred item (the wheels, for example).   They may explore toys but rarely play them according to their function. Pretend play and social play are often limited as well.

When teaching appropriate play, start with simple toys and/or activities. Be aware of the items or activities that the child already finds fun.  Pair new play skills with fun things!  For example, if the child loves a particular movie, play the movie in the background as they explore a new toy.  If they really love chips, give them chips intermittently as they look at the pictures of a new book or turn on their favorite song and give them praise as they explore a new play set.  Pairing new play skills with items or activities that are already fun will make new play behaviors fun as well.  It will then be more likely that the child will want to play appropriately again in the future.

Once they show interest in a new item and/or activity, model appropriate play.  Show them how to push the buttons, drive the car across a track, or turn the pages of a book.  If they spontaneously imitate any of these behaviors, make sure to reinforce with already established fun activities (such as edibles, praise, movies, etc.).

These tips are also beneficial for teaching social and pretend play.  Pair social and pretend play with fun things!  Model these behaviors and be sure to reinforce with established fun activities when the child emits any of these appropriate skills.    Siblings can be an essential part of the modeling process and can help deliver reinforcing items and activities as well.

Allow the child to naturally explore their environment.  Don’t force the child to engage in appropriate play behaviors as this may make new behaviors aversive. Remember to pair, model, and reinforce!

Laura Britton, BCBA

increasing appropriate play skills

increasing appropriate play skills