Special education programs exist to teach children with autism and learning disabilities essential skills, help them manage their complex needs and encourage them to achieve their best. These lessons are not just confined to formal special education programs, however. Hobbies such as board games can also have a positive impact, and should be encouraged.
Why are Board Games Good for Children in Special Education Programs?
Board games provide a distinct and fun way to teach skills that may otherwise be hard to master. They can be an alternative to other learning methods, or reinforce classes elsewhere. Depending on the game, they may provide opportunities for mental arithmetic, for improving vocabulary, for practicing hand-eye coordination, for mastering social skills, or for working on problem-solving and the ability to plan.
How Parents can Encourage Children with Autism to Play Board Games?
Find Games that Suit their Taste
Obviously, everyone has their own personal taste when it comes to games. Some people like slow and careful strategizing, others prefer something that still includes some active movement. Children with autism are no different. In fact, since many are highly focused on their special interests, they may have even more specific tastes about what they play. Find a game that features a topic they enjoy (such as animals, or trains) or has gameplay that is particularly suited to their style of thinking. Board games are almost limitless in their design, so you should be able to find something for them.
Don’t Force it
Conversely, trying to force them to play a game that they obviously do not enjoy is more likely to put them off of board games as a whole. If they seem bored or aggravated, let them stop playing it and try something else. Don’t stick to a game just because it is particularly well-known, or your personal favorite, or you think they should like it.
Engage their Senses
Different board games come with different color schemes, made out of different materials and with different sizes and shapes. Many children with autism will find the game more enjoyable if it gives them a chance to engage all of their senses. A well-designed and chosen game is likely to provide visual or tactile stimulation in particular.
Reduce Chances for Conflict
Children with autism often struggle to react appropriately to changing situations, especially when they find them distressing. Avoid games that are likely to create high levels of frustration, whether because they are particularly hard to win or because of rivalry with other players. Games that involve cooperation, rather than those where players are in competition and one side has to lose, could reduce emotional outbreaks. It also helps to control the surrounding environment so that the child feels safe. This may include things like the seating arrangements or the room temperature.
If you want your child with autism to experience the many benefits of board games, then you need to create an inviting environment that can provide stimulation without causing distress. Most importantly, you need to listen to the child so you can find the board game that best suits them.