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Autism Recovery Scheduled Playtime

By Matthewspuzzle @matthewspuzzle

Autism Recovery Scheduled Playtimepre

If you didn’t already know, many autistic children have no real idea how to play. Well, they can be quite adept at playing computer or video games, but outside of that, they often have little skill or interest.

Matthew happens to be one of those kids. He has both fine and gross motor skill issues which means that delicate work such as building or coloring is hard, and running, kicking and throwing, or larger motor work, is also difficult. He has never been interested in pretend play, so dress up and make believe have not held his interest. His therapist suggested that we start scheduled playtime after we told her how concerned we were that he never played with any of his toys and that often he is bored unless we allow TV or other electronics. She feels that scheduled, structured playtime while at home will get him interested and involved in those games children play at recess, on rainy days and during playdates. We discussed his interests and dislikes and she came up with a few broad areas for us to focus on.

We started this past weekend, and although it was mostly successful, it was often extremely hard work. To try to keep him focused and on task, we utilized a visual timer, setting it for 10 minutes. The timer itself can be a bit of a distraction as Matthew often stopped playing so he could count down the time. I made a list in advance, of games and activities, then pulled from that list. We also built in “free” play time so that he would know he could count on the computer or video games being there when he was allowed to play them. This helped him focus during the scheduled time.

Some of our playtime ideas included:

  • catch and other ball games
  • art projects
  • coloring
  • board and card games
  • dominoes
  • puzzles
  • blowing bubbles
  • pretending to be zoo animals, monsters, bugs, etc.
  • sliding and swinging
  • water table play
  • squirt guns
  • reading

Some activities were bigger hits than others, such as the water table. As long as he was playing appropriately we let him continue to play, even past the 10 minute mark. Coloring was a harder sell, but he needs to improve his fine motor skills in that area. Additionally, catch is fun but if he misses too many times he wants to quit. We struggled coming up with enough activities to fill the day, and we also struggled with maintaining his interest. Even demanding he stick with scheduled playtime, he would often wander off and it was hard to pull him back in.  We found that scheduled playtime is essential to him being successful, and we know we can make it routine, but until then I think that it is going to be a bit like pulling teeth. Not his, or my, favorite activity.

Do you use scheduled playtime? Is your child capable of independent, appropriate play with items other than electronics? What has made you successful?

Stay Well.

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