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Children on the Autism Spectrum and Poor Sportsmanship

"My boy (high functioning) 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 High-Functioning Autism (HFA) or Asperger's, you know that some games are difficult. Many of these kids make up their own rules, and that tends to spoil the game for everyone else. Also, some games just may not make sense to the HFA child, or he has a preferred idea that he thinks may work better.

As it turns out, there are some games created with HFA and Asperger's 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 children with "special needs" that they forget that, above all, they are still just kids. Like any other child in her age group, your HFA child wants to have fun.

While some activities may not be suitable for kids on the autism spectrum, 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.

These 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 HFA 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 an autism spectrum disorder 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.

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

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