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The Importance of Play for Children with Autism

A common question asked by parents of children with Autism is: “how does my child’s ASD diagnosis affect the way that they play?” As you are likely already aware, Autism affects social and communication skills. Additionally, children with ASD often have difficulty with “joint attention”. Joint attention is where two individuals are focused on the same thing and are both aware that they are having a shared experience. There is often unwillingness in children with Autism to engage in joint attention, which can cause deficits in play skills because joint attention is directly linked to play. You can reach out to an aba therapy provider near you if you have further questions about how autism affects play and different play skill deficits to look out for.

Some examples of common play skill deficits are:

  • Mimicking actions
  • Sharing
  • Listener responding
  • Turn taking

Play is not just about toys. Play is about structured interaction, and toys are often used as props to help foster these interactions. Play is a critical piece of a child’s development. It helps to fine tune their gross motor, social, communication and language skills. Children do not learn how to play on their own. Adult guidance is often required to teach children what different toys do and how to play certain games. Children with autism often have a very difficult time with play because of their lack of joint attention skills. They will often want to play alone, or repetitively play with something that can become boring to a typically developing child. So, the first step in helping your child become “better” at playing is to develop their “joint attention skills” mentioned above. Games like “peek-a- boo” which requires both individuals to be engaged are a perfect way to help develop joint attention skills. Some other examples include: making silly faces together in a mirror, having a dance party, pushing on a swing, and giving tickles.

Another important factor in a child’s interest in joint attention/ play with others is engagement. If the game or toy is very engaging and interesting to them they are likely to continue playing even if sharing the space or playing with another individual is non-preferred. Toys do not have to be expensive to be engaging… the following is a list of some things that are highly engaging to many children.

Bubbles– blow some bubbles and then stop, wait for them to request more!

Balloons– throw them up in the air, bounce them, blow it up and let the air out in their face

Blocks– can help encourage and develop turn taking skills. Try building a tower and then they can knock it down or add on to it.

Books– any interactive books are great (pop ups, lift the flap, noise making books, texture books)

Puzzles– can be easy or difficult depending on your child’s skill level and interest.

Cause and Effect Toys– any toy that requires them to push a button or do something that will make something exciting happen. Think jack-in-the-box.

For more information on how to develop your child’s play skills, you can reach out to a professional in your area by searching “aba therapy near me” or “aba therapy Bergen County”. ABA professionals can give you some more detailed information on joint attention and how to promote social engagement.

Meet the Experienced ABA Therapists at Capable Cubs ABA Therapy Center in Bergen County

At Capable Cubs, we believe that selecting an ABA therapy center near you is an incredibly critical decision with lasting consequences. As a leading ABA services provider in Bergen County, we encourage parents to always ask questions and evaluate our services and therapists without any hesitation.

Our team of highly trained ABA clinicians includes experienced and qualified BCBAs and RBTs who specialize in combining various ABA methods for providing the most effective treatment to your child with ASD. We create a structured roadmap for every child, including extensive initial assessments, comprehensive ABA treatment plans, critical learning milestones and effective discharge plans to successfully transition out of our care. Our goal is to help your child build the skills needed to increase independence, build meaningful relationships, and connect with their community.

Select an ABA therapy center that works best for your family’s priorities, needs, and goals. Get in touch with the Autism specialists at Capable Cubs. Call 201-786-6280 or contact us online to learn more about our quick intake process.

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