Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts a person’s ability to effectively sort through the input that their brain receives from their eyes, nose, ears, and body. Autism Spectrum Disorder can impact the way that kids develop, and it has a huge effect on how they perceive and interact with those around them. If your child or any of your students has a diagnosis of autism, it’s important to provide proper support for their learning. We’ve collected 11 activities that help learners with autism learn more efficiently. With the right support, students with autism may see increased academic success!
1. Make a Sensory Collage Together
For this fun activity for kids, spend some time going through old newspapers and magazines. Or, if you don’t have those lying around the house, make an internet search. When you find a picture of something familiar, talk about the sensory attributes of the item, such as how it tastes, smells, feels, etc. Then, cut and paste these images onto colored paper to make a collage that groups images based on their related sensory experiences.
Learn More: Pinterest
2. Play “The Smelling Game”
This is one of the easiest activities for children with autism, and it’s great for any cohort of children who want to explore their sense of smell! Collect a few small jars or storage containers. In each container, put something with a distinct smell, aroma, or odor. Then, have your child close their eyes, take a whiff, and describe the smell. They should also try to identify the item in each container based solely on the smell.
Learn More: Play Teach Repeat
3. Practice Empathy with Picture Books
You can start with this list of picture books for kids of all ages; each of these titles features a story about sharing, caring, and practicing empathy. This is a great “brain break” activity. For kids with autism, it can be more difficult to put themselves in others’ shoes, so this explicit and implicit instruction is a key element in helping them grow their social skills and interpersonal skills. Doing this at an early age when there is more behavioral plasticity is also key.
Learn More: Joco Library
4. Identify Emotions with Expression Cards
Another great way to help individuals with autism practice their interpersonal skills is to offer explicit training about emotional facial expressions. These flashcards can help autistic children learn and drill the different facial expressions of others, as well as the underlying emotions that these faces indicate. Using colored paper or textile materials
Learn More: Twinkl
5. Make Slime Together
This simple slime recipe is a great sensory activity for individuals with autism. Plus, you probably have most or all of the ingredients at home! The result is a fluffy slime that changes consistency as it is mixed and as it forms. This is a great way to experience changing sensory input and normalize that experience while building motor skills and process-based learning skills along the way.
Learn More: The Best Ideas For Kids
6. DIY Fidget Toys
Fidget toys (such as fidget spinners) are another sensory activity to help a child with autism focus and come back to the center; they can help curb the symptoms of autism spectrum disorder. And the best news is that you can make so many different fidget toys with everyday objects at a super low cost! This is a resource that explains an entire sample of more than 20 designs for DIY fidget toys that can help your child with autism calm down throughout the day.
Learn More: We Are Teachers
7. Sensory Play with Music
“Sensory play” refers to any playtime activities that are meant to bring attention and mindfulness to sensory input. Music can be a key element in sensory play since it is central to auditory sensory input. Games that incorporate music — such as musical chairs or freeze dance — can be a great way to bring a fun musical element into sensory play focused on auditory input and hearing regulation. It can also foster musical and creative skills.
Learn More: Play Matters
8. Create a “Calming Down” Drawer
If you have autistic students in your class, it is a good idea to have a drawer or kit in place with some tools that help an autistic child calm down. This kit can be especially useful when the autistic person feels overwhelmed, or when the sensory input around them is just too much. Have the caustic individual help you put the drawer or kit together.
Learn More: Autism Adventures
9. Sensory Obstacle Course
This obstacle course can be set up indoors or outside, and it’s a great activity for autism. Combine the classic obstacle course items with sensory experiences, such as a pool of water to splash through or special sound effects at different obstacles. This will facilitate not only a really fun time of physical time but also allow kids with autism to practice navigating and regulating sensory inputs, one right after the other.
Learn More: Autism Adventures
10. Water Therapy for People with Autism
Water therapy is an effective way to treat the developmental disorder autism. It is done in a swimming pool, and it focuses on physical activity and centering exercises. This helps people with autism focus on managing and regulating sensory input in a low-risk environment. It also allows for a time of rest and respite from what can be an overwhelming amount of sensory input in the wider world.
Learn More: Spring Book Behavioral
11. Paint Chip Storytelling
All you need to build amazing stories are a few paint color sample cards from the home improvement store! With different color sample cards as the prompt, have your autistic child tell a story. They’ll probably start with simple characters and events, and as they go along, ask them questions like “How did the character feel?” and “Why did the character do that?” This will help promote empathy practice for those with intellectual disabilities, as well as social skills, conversational skills, and interpersonal skills.
Learn More: Education.com