Autism and Play
Lucie Aiston has two children – daughter Izabel and son Xavier. Three years ago Xavier was diagnosed with autism, and for the last year Lucie has blogged at ourworldandautism.com about family life with an autistic son. Here she writes exclusively for BrainBox about her experience of autism, play time and how one of our games has helped...
When it comes to autistic children, playing games can have its pros and cons. I have a son with autism, and although he likes to play, it really has to be on his terms. If not, or if the rules are unclear or get changed during the game, it is quite possible that all hell will break loose! Generally speaking it can be difficult to engage my son in board games or activities. He can get bored quickly. He is obsessed with technology but I personally don't want him drowned in that. If allowed, he would probably spend hours on end glued to a console or tablet. I didn't have those things when I was growing up so I don't want him to depend on them either.
We recently tried Corner'd by The Green Board Game Co and I think the brightly-coloured box initially enticed him! Xavier couldn't get the box open quick enough to see what it was all about. I thought his 11-year old sister might have classed herself as too old, but she was eager to have a go as well! It was about matching patterns on the cards onto the boards and Xavier was really concentrating. He matched all his cards before his sister, and was over the moon – but the mood changed when his sister won the rematch…!
With an autistic child, I have found that tailoring learning or playing to their interests really helps. My son’s interests are Dr Who and Minecraft – he can tell me everything there is to know about them! I try to use this to my advantage. Visual aids are good too, for example using pictures of favourite characters or objects.
I think learning through play is so important. Xavier struggles to share and also with social skills and interaction, so learning through play helps him in so many ways. Taking turns in a game; having to ask another player a question; following the rules already set out in the game rather than instructing everyone to follow his.
Because of his autism my son would much rather be on his own. He finds the world a confusing place and doesn't see spending time with others as particularly 'fun'. I encourage him to socialise as much as possible, as he needs to get used to being around others and learn to interact with others. Games are a fun way to get him used to interacting with other people.
My experience of parenting a child with autism is that they need to be engaged at their level – finding out what motivates and interests them is key to helping them learn and grow.