Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Getting to Know You: Fun Games for Children with Autism

At the beginning of the school year I loved to play lots of games with my students to help them get to know one another.  There are a TON of opportunities to work on important skills throughout these games.  This particular game idea came from my favorite Autism Consultant several years ago.   I have modified it so we could use it over and over again. 

Grab an old coffee can, preferably one that will roll easily across the floor {and doesn't have rust or paint in it}.  Put a photo or name card in the can for all the students in your class.  Put the lid on and you are ready to play!

Gather your students on the floor in a circle.  One person starts by saying the name of a friend and rolling the can to that person.  {For children who are nonverbal, we used a voice output device or picture communication board to help them communicate and make a choice.} 

The receiving child opens the can and removes a picture or name card.  They will say the name and identify the person on the card.  The whole class can then greet that child by saying "Hi ____!" and waving in that direction.  Now the lid is replaced and the can is rolled to the child that everyone just greeted.  You continue this way until everyone has had a turn.

This activity offers lots of opportunities to practice necessary social skills.  When children are removing and replacing the lid on the can, they may need to ask for help.  You can use visual or verbal prompting to help them learn to ask for help appropriately. 

My favorite cue is the sign language for "help".  If they become upset, this is a great opportunity to practice calming techniques and wishing well as a class.

Games like this help keep the children actively involved while practicing lots of essential social skills in a functional setting.

  1. Instead of rolling the can to the pictured child, have them offer that child a greeting such as a high five or fist bump.
  2. Pass the can around the circle in a clockwise direction and use this as an opportunity to practice tapping your neighbor on the shoulder, getting their attention, and then handing them the can.  Inside the can you can place various greetings or movement activities that the children can participate in.  You could also place pictures of shapes, numbers, letters, objects, or sight words in the can for them to identify when it is their turn.  You could ask them questions about what they pulled out of the can or they could give clues to the class and let them guess. 
  3. I had a speech therapist that did a super fun activity every year with the coffee can and instant pudding.  She would allow the children to assist her in following the steps in the recipe to make the pudding.  Then she would secure the lid on the can with tape or rubber bands.  We would mix up the pudding by rolling the can around the circle.  In turn, each child would say the name of a child across the circle and then roll the can in that direction.  When the can had made it's way around the circle, then it the pudding was ready!  We didn't eat it right away though.  Instead, we took it to the table and finger painted with it on wax paper.  It was always a big hit!  The kids even got a choice between vanilla and chocolate!