You can make this summer a memorable one for your autistic child by doing these fun activities tailor-made for him.
By Parama Gupta
The sweltering summer is here and it’s the time when most parents rack their brains for ideas to keep their children happily occupied so that they do not complain of the heat. If you are a parent of an autistic child, then the task of choosing useful and engaging activities is even more difficult. The key here is to look for activities that will not only sustain the interest of your child but also educate her. Learning becomes easier and more effective when an element of fun is added to the activity.
A publication titled, 'Autism and Play Volume 2' by the Centre for Autism, Middletown, published in 2016 talks about the importance of play as a learning aid. The research states: ‘Learning to play affords children a way to interact with others. Play can provide the context the topic. When children engage effectively with others they also have opportunities to learn from these interactions. For example, children can test out their own ideas in play and they can learn from others’ ideas. Play also encourages creativity, cooperation and flexibility, skills that are important to later learning'.
Here are a few activities you can try out if your child has borderline autism spectrum disorder:
1. Watch movies together
This summer, watch interesting movies with your child. Head out to the movie theatre to give her the enthralling experience of watching movies on the big screen or watch a few good collections at home together. Make sure that you select movies that she will enjoy. Given the fact that autistic children find it difficult to follow stories, it may not be a good idea to watch movies that are long and have intense emotional content as she may not be able to follow the story. Instead, go for action-packed and animated children's movies. 3D animation movies are a great option to explore, as your child is sure to be spellbound by the characters leaping out at her.
2. Do yoga
Your child’s physical and mental well-being is of the utmost importance and what better way to maintain good health than to practise yoga together. This summer, enrol your child in a yoga class or have a yoga trainer come home and teach him different yoga poses and meditation techniques. It may at first seem like a herculean task to make your child sit quietly in one place and follow instructions but with persistent efforts you can overcome this difficulty. Turn the yoga sessions into fun-filled ones with exciting and rhythmic music or lively narration of stories.
3. Practise art and craft
Do-it-yourself projects have a great appeal for autistic children. Such activities not only keep children happy but also instil in them a sense of identity and self-satisfaction. Activities such as paper quilling, origami and crochet work hold a lot of charm for children with special needs as they are easy to learn and safe to carry out. These activities can help your child be creative. But, you must be cautious that she doesn’t get hurt while using scissors or other tools while making these crafts.
4. Conduct fun science experiments
Make a list of interesting and easy-to-do science experiments that you can do at home. These activities will help your child understand important scientific concepts in a practical manner. A few examples of such activities include writing notes with invisible ink to each other, creating a volcano with baking soda and vinegar, creating mini windmills, making rainwater harvesting models, arranging circuits, and so on. Choose activities according to your child's age and understanding level. Also, make sure that these experiments are safe to do at home.
5. Plan educational trips around the city
Rising summer temperatures shouldn’t deter you from planning enjoyable trips to different places around the city. One day, you could take your child to a planetarium and on another day, you can visit the museum. Yet another day, you can take her to cultural hubs or exhibitions. But before you set out for your day’s trip, make sure that you plan your day ahead and are well prepared to tackle her possible mood swings or tantrums. Plan how you want to engage her interest during these trips and educate her about various facts so that she doesn’t feel bored at any point. You can also plan various after-trip activities that will help her remember whatever she has learnt through the day.
6. Organise fun-filled picnic sprees
You need not only plan for trips that are educational in purpose. A visit to the amusement park, the zoo, the beach or any other interesting picnic spot can be equally exciting and educational. You can engage your child through several interesting learning activities such as teaching him to cook simple dishes for the picnic, packing for a trip, maintaining a scrapbook of things observed during the picnic, and so on. You can plan a series of such outings for every weekend.
7. Embark on a summer gardening project
Summer is the best time to indulge in gardening. If you have a patch of land around your house or space in the terrace for gardening, then do not think twice before taking your child out to do some serious gardening every day. Gardening has several therapeutic effects for special children both physically and mentally. Together, plan out on paper how your garden will look like, what plants you’ll put in and where you'll put them before you set out to do the actual gardening. While the plants grow, you can teach your child how to take care of each plant. This activity will not only teach her useful gardening skills but will also help her pick up useful life skills such as having patience, working hard, and caring for and nurturing all living things. Remember to monitor her so she doesn’t hurt herself while gardening or get bitten by insects.
Here are some activities your child can do if he’s on the other end of the autistic spectrum:
Exercise patience and perseverance while dealing with your autistic child as there may be times when his capacity to pay attention may fluctuate. Do all you can to add some fun into all of these activities. Your positive and caring attitude will go a long way in helping him derive joy and learning from all these activities.
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