January 17, 2017By Christine Giles, MS, CCC-SLP
Most children with autism have a difficult time fitting in with their peers. Because autism’s main symptoms include difficulty with social communication, problems with socializing are almost inevitable. The playground in the perfect place for your child to learn important social skills. Here are some steps you can take as a parent to help your child make sense of the expectations of people around them.
1. Practice Using Playground Equipment
The first step in playing with peers on the playground is to know how to use playground equipment – this is something that you can practice with your child one-on-one (or with siblings) before trying it out with friends. Teaching your child how to safely use the swings, slide and seesaw will be incredibly helpful in the social setting of the playground.
2. How to Engage in Pretend/Group Play
Solo-play is very typical of a child with autism. While there is nothing wrong with solo-play, it can be limiting. When it comes to acquiring the skills needed to participate in group play and pretend play, solo play can get in the way. You can incorporate symbolic play (or just be imaginative!) to teach your child how to participate in social settings (playing house, phone, or have a tea party!).
3. Playground Etiquette
One of the most important things you can teach your child are the rules to playground play. Turn taking, standing in line, and knowing when to ask adults for help are all important skills to attain for a successful day at the playground. You can help your child navigate the basics of playground etiquette by visiting playgrounds together with siblings and friends!
Christine Giles, MS, CCC-SLP is a practicing therapist as well as the owner of Creative Therapy Works, LLC. She earned an undergraduate degree at The Florida State University with a major in Communication Disorders and a Master of Science degree from The University of Wyoming in Speech-Language Pathology. She has been actively practicing therapy in schools, pediatric hospitals, private settings, home health, rehabilitation facilities, and skilled nursing facilities since 2002.