Education and Counseling for Individuals Affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders

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Aspergers Children and Poor Sportsmanship

"My Aspie boy hates to share - and even worse - hates to lose. He takes playing games too seriously, and takes losing too personally. How can I help him be a better team player? Also, what games might be a better fit for him?"

If you are a mother or father of a youngster with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, you know that some games are difficult. Many "Aspies" make up their own rules, and that tends to spoil the game for everyone else. Some games just may not make sense to the Aspergers child, or he has a preferred idea that he thinks may work better.

As it turns out, there are some games created with Aspergers children in mind. If you have been struggling to find something that your youngster relates to, here are a few suggestions (most of which do not include the participation of others):
  • a color torch
  • activities that involve shape and color matching
  • blowing bubbles 
  • board books
  • books with flaps books with unique fabrics and textures
  • checkers
  • chess
  • computer games, although these should be monitored and used in moderation
  • drawing, coloring, and painting or toys that incorporate these activities 
  • factual books
  • jack-in-the-box 
  • jigsaw puzzles 
  • Lego and other construction toys 
  • picture matching and board games (e.g., Snakes and Ladders or Guess Who?) 
  • picture or word bingo 
  • playground toys such as swings, slides, and sand pits 
  • puzzle books
  • riding toys such as bicycles 
  • rocking horses 
  • singing and dancing games 
  • sorting toys 
  • train sets 
  • trampolines 
  • watching interactive videos 
  • word books that are accompanied by pictures or photos

Parents and teachers often get so caught up in educating and providing structure to the lives of Aspergers children that they forget that, above all, she is a child. Like any other child in her age group, your Aspergers child wants to have fun.

While some activities may not be suitable for kids with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism, there are a number of fun games to play with them, many of which can get them involved with others or help them further develop motor or social skills while just focusing on having a good time.

Aspergers children often benefit greatly from song. Even children who do not like to sing can learn to hum along or play simple instruments (e.g., tambourines, whistles, etc.). Using sounds that are repetitive and with educational lyrics helps these children learn school lessons, but also gives them an outlet for some of the sensory stimulation they need. Playing follow the leader with the instruments is a good way to help the children focus their attention and improve socialization skills.

Also, focus on games that involve closer contact with trusted family members. For example, make it a game to get across the room without touching the floor. Perhaps the only route in some instances is to be carried.

Remember that each Aspergers child is different developmentally, so stay in tune with how challenging the activities should be. As your child matures, she may want to be involved with organized sports. This should be encouraged, but choose your sport carefully. Golf, baseball, and other sports that do not involve strong personal sensory stimulation may be better for your child than something like tackle football. However, be open to all possibilities. Be sure the team’s coach understands your child’s strengths and weaknesses and is willing to work with him.

Remember that a child with Aspergers has trouble seeing things from another person's point of view. Therefore, he may be less likely to enjoy games in which something must be kept a secret from another person (e.g., go-fish).

Overall, you and your child need to grow together. Remember that although she has many special needs, sometimes your child needs to simply be a kid. Encourage play along with work, and realize that games and activities may fulfill two key elements: (a) socialization skills for life and (b) learning to enjoy playing with peers.

Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management


Anonymous said...

This describes my daughter. Any game she doesn't win ends in tears, actually most everything ends in tears.

Anonymous said...

family board games so you can model winning and losing and have discussions and reward his/her grateful win and lose. start with just family (you - if it is appropriate) at first and there may be an opportunity to "model" an inappropriate win or lose with gross exaggerations followed by more social stories. Take it outside to a basketball court for some 1:1 and other type activities that do not involve uncontrollable others and outcomes until child is ready. Also watch the olympics and use social stories to highlight the sportsmanship modeled there. good luck

Anonymous said...

my son's 2nd grade teacher set up some of her compassionate and patient students to help my son - but it kinda backfired when another 2nd grade class group of kids didn't know the "modified" rules played with my son. the other kids came real close to fighting in their efforts to stick up for my son. teaching winning and losing involved the school psychiatrist getting involved and my son getting to choose a classmate to come in and play board games - in addition to the home versions. it takes multi interventions sometimes.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, Webkinz helped my daughter so much with not taking it personally when she lost a game. Short, frequent games that are quickly decided, and then quickly moved on from helped her put things in perspective.

Anonymous said...

try karate..builds confidence ..turn taking and doesnt have to be competitive, helped my son no end.. my son also never understood or will understand team games like football..structured lessons helped him more, also with the sharing thing..try giving him the choice of what toys he feels able to share..and put the rest up ..i found looking at it from a adult perspective that if a friend of mine came round and started playing with my tv or going through my stuff and wearing my make up i would get upset...and that is how my son saw these kids who came to his house and started using his also had a stuffed lizard bean toy that no one could touch and took it evrywhere ..even at school.

Anonymous said...

sports day was a nightmare in jnrs..and often ended up in a punch up if somebody laughed at him not winning ..honestly i have the photos to prove it! we ended up advoiding sports day and instead took the day off and went swimming..:D

Anonymous said...

family games were a joke when my aspie was younger. I think it's because they think so black & white/all or nothing. Losing meant LOSING everything. sooo.... (yep, I'm gonna catch it for this but it worked) we introduced him to poker. (h
e's a math/numbers whiz). The games moved fast so he didn't have time to react to losing a game before he would be playing again. We played fair, made sure he knew that he would NOT get his money back if he lost it (we played with pennies and nickles only), and promised we would play again another day if he did NOT throw any fits. He may have ended with less money than he started with, but he knew the consequence of GOOD SPORTSMANSHIP would yield a chance to win again. He also had a little more control over the game than a "roll of the dice". He could chose which version we played when he was the dealer. He could choose if or how much he wanted to bet... I don't know but I think that made a bit of a difference than so many board games that rely on luck alone. Eventually he calmed down and used good sportsmanship in other games and we have no problems at all now. I'm sure you could modify this approach, use marbles or toothpicks and any fast moving game, not necessarily poker or cards. We didn't really give it much thought, he just asked to play one day, we were desperate and willing to try anything, and we were amazed at the difference it made. OF COURSE we went to great lengths to explain to him that we were playing for fun and only with the money we had set aside for the game and that getting carried away with gambling can be very dangerous.
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