Activities For Autistic Kids [Build them a happy life]

What's Covered

Did you know that kids with autism learn more through free play or play therapy? Oh, yes! Most often than not, that is the very first thing that any child or any type of neurotypes will learn—play.  But a lot of factors come into play (pun intended) when dealing with kids on the spectrum. They can be person-specific. They can be oblivious to the world. They may not want to interact with other people. They may have weird preferences with toys or the activities presented.  That and many, many more.

The First Activity Is For The Autistic Kids Parents

How do you start? Well, read up! After a diagnosis such as this, parents often end up in denial or blame each other or wallow in pity.  But it’s always better to know what you are dealing with than be ignorant and not know what to do with your child. For one, you can read books or look Autism up on the internet. According to a journal article by Gibson (2017), the majority of the parents rely heavily on local sources of information as compared to say, the internet.[1] The more you know, the better you feel. The better you feel, the better you plan for your child. The better your child becomes, the happier your life will be. The end. But not quite. We’re just starting. If you don’t plan well, then you’re doomed. There’s a lot of books that you can read up about Autism.

Books On Autism

As with any book, open your mind when you are reading. It’s a lot easier to comprehend concepts when you have an open mind.

An Early Start for Your Child with Autism
One of the best starter books for parents with special kids

            This book specifically focuses on how parents to special kids can start their journey—from diagnosis to going through every day with the deficits and disabilities that an autistic kid may have.  It’s very detailed as to what to do and what to expect so it’s very helpful.  This can guide you in planning activities and planning of action and intervention.  This can save you time and other resources as well since you can easily read up on how to interact with your kid on autism.  This being said, you will have a lot of time in your hands.  Giving you time for your kid with autism and other kids as well (if you have them), for your spouse, and ultimately, time for yourself.  If you can better manage your time, then you can be a better parent.

Positive Parenting for Autism
This will help you learn and develop techniques in engaging with your child with autism

                This book entails the techniques used by therapists handling those on the spectrum.  Reiterating the importance of interaction, helping the child build up life skills, and managing and installing strategies that can help your child, and you, live a near-normal life.  The stress that comes with figuring out what to do and how to help your child can be overwhelming. Hence, when you learn something and can work your way around the diagnosis, this makes your life a lot easier.  The stress will not be that great as compared to parents who do not know what to do in say, for example, a major meltdown at a mall. 

Autistic Kids Family Activities

                After learning about Autism and what we can do about it, we move on to employing therapies and strategies that will help our kids.

Family Therapy

                As mentioned earlier, parents of kids with autism often encounter overwhelming stress, especially when their kids are newly-diagnosed and they are still going through the emotions and the panic that the situation has caused them.  These stressors can very much affect the family dynamics and the marriage itself.  Hence, the need for intervention by a family therapist.  It is said that family therapists are well-equipped individuals who act as bonds for these families as they go through the motions. They are the ones who help you create and establish the new family dynamics.[2]

Play Therapy

                In an article by Hillman (2018), play therapy, as a type of intervention for kids with autism, has shown very promising results.  Employing therapy in interventions can effectively make your child interact more and open up to people. [3] In another study, play therapy has positively affected the social and emotional functioning of children with autism, making child-centered play therapy very effective for young-aged children.[4]

What Other Activities Can Be Done For Children With Autism?

                The importance of play is once again reiterated in this book.  This book lists all the activities that you can do or games that you can play inside or outside the home.  It has activities for engaging your kids in an activity, for sensory development, for gross and fine motor skills, for communication, for socializing, and for being school-ready.  Everything is explained well and the strategies used here can easily be adapted by the parents, making their time productive.  This will also lessen the burden and the stress of coming up with activities that they can do at home with their kids. This will help the kids a lot, and I mean, a lot! Developing all their motor skills, developing communication to becoming verbal, will increase the chances of a near-normal child and happier parents (and family members as well). 

For Fine Motor Skills Activities

Skoolzy Preschool Lacing Beads for Kids
Great toy for developing fine motor skills

                This lacing toy not only develops fine motor skills but dexterity and hand-eye coordination as well.  There are different shapes and colors so they can lace through it, sort it by color or shapes, and entertain their visual curiosity.  This will give the parents a chance to bond with their kids with autism, strengthening the bond that they have.  Kids will eventually learn on their own with the guidance of their parents.  The parents, in turn, will be able to learn how to handle their kids as they are tested for patience and the ability to wait and sit and do the activity with them.  Parents can engage more with their kids. In turn, they can teach their kids how to do things.  This is already addressing a thousand possible problems with just one toy. 

LEGO DUPLO Classic Brick Box 10913 First LEGO Set with Storage Box
This is a great educational toy for spatial thinking and fine motor skills

                One of the best educational toys that ever existed is the building blocks.  This does not only enhance spatial reasoning but also develop fine motor skills. It helps the kids develop problem-solving skills and creative thinking. These also help the kids become independent and self-reliant.  The parents will soon appreciate how this toy has helped them and their kids as their kids will grow older.  They can be very smart and self-reliant and do not need much assistance whenever a crisis arises.  This will give the parents more time to enjoy their time. Mothers, who are usually the worrywarts of the family, will have more time for themselves, more time for other things, more time to spare for other family members.  This just paints a picture of a happy family, doesn’t it?

Learning Resources Spike the Fine Motor Hedgehog
This toy helps develops sensory and fine motor skills for toddlers and kids with autism

This toy helps with color recognition, pattern making, fine motor skills, sorting, and counting skills.  This will help the parents teach the kids how to count, and the basics of numbers, and color.  This will make the parents interact more with their kids as this necessitates verbal prompts.  And more interaction, the better the brain development. This will lead to a lot of things.  The child will be entertained, happy, and engaged, thereby freeing the parents of the stress of trying to make the child happy. 

Sensory Stimulation Activities For Autistic Kids

Super Z Outlet Liquid Motion Bubbler
This is a good visual stimulation toy for kids with autism

This is like a lava lamp, but not quite. This is a good sensory toy for kids with Autism and ADHD.  It provides soothing and calming entertainment for the kids.  This improves focus and engagement in activities.  It could keep them occupied for hours, as mommy does all the chores at home.  Daddy can do all his work and just enjoy his time at home. The siblings can join and have fun while watching the droplets go up and down in a rhythmic pattern.

BunMo Pop Tubes Sensory Toys
This is a sensory toy and also a fidget toy for kids with autism and ADHD

These tubes are flexible toys that could stretch and pop and connect. These could also enhance fine motor skills and visual engagement.  Playing with these tubes could keep the kids in a considerable period as they try to connect them and play with them.  The parents could do other things and have time for themselves as they can just leave their kids with these toys since they are harmless. Usually, the kids come out engaged and happy after playing with things like these, which in turn could mean lesser burden and stress for the parents.  These could be played outside while mom and dad have a picnic.  This could provide tactile stimulation, which when improved, results in the child being more responsive and receptive to their environment.

It is said that kids with autism have different sensory stimulation deficits, that could cause under- or overstimulation “reactions” of kids with autism. This in turn causes them to stim or a series of actions that they do to process these stimuli. They could snap their fingers, or spin in circles, or flap their hands, among other things. It was proven in a study that tactile sensory processing is impaired in kids with autism.[5]

Calming Stretchy Stress and Anxiety Relief Fidget Toys
Calming sensory toys that can help in sensory stimulation and processing

These textured tubes are stretchy. They are also called fidget toys since the kids can fidget and just hold them to help them stay calm.  A lot of sensory toys have pretty much the same effects on these kids on the spectrum.  They are calming, soothing, engaging, and entertaining.  This brings out the curiosity in the kids, hence they are good at distracting these kids when they are unfocused.  These are also used in play therapy because they keep a hyperactive kid in one place. They enable the kids to be able to sit and wait and just not do anything for a time. When parents bring their kids outside of their home, there is a chance that their kids could have a meltdown.  Overall, kids with autism have sensory processing disorders. Hence, they cannot process things, situations, or environments like any other normal human being.[6]  They are rigid and anxious when new things happen or they are brought to new places, or when they meet new people.  All these add to the burden and the stress of having a child with autism.  But when you have toys that help your kids overcome these, any little improvement goes a long way for these families.  The parents are happier with these milestones. And the family dynamics tend to become more stable. 

Sensory Water Beads Toy
Squishy shape learning toys for kids

Other sensory toys are these soft squishy shapes that could save you a lot of time in trying to calm down a hyperactive kid. These squishy toys promote the dexterity of the hand. These are calming and the adults could use them too! Whenever you are stressed out, you can have an instant stress buster with these squishy toys. And when you get that instant release, you can think clearly.  You can focus on your work and your kids more. You can plan and organize things faster.  Both kids and adults can benefit from these scenarios.

The kids use it to make shapes and other things. It enhances their imagination, specifically their imaginative play, which oftentimes, the kids with autism lack. When you see your kids playing with their toys appropriately, you get a feeling of fulfillment. And this makes a mother very happy.  It comes with the thought that you are doing right by your kids.  Another thing is that it urges the parents to play with their kids when they see them happy.  The family members create a stronger bond when they play together or do things together.

Play-Doh Fun Tub
This is used in play therapy for kids with autism and ADHD

This comes with 5 tubs of clay and shape cutters. This is one of the toys that attract the attention of kids with autism. There is just something about clay. According to a study, playing with Play-doh was highly effective in the development of fine motor skills of kids with autism.[7] These are fun to squeeze. 

Kinetic Sand
This is a fun and entertaining toy for kids with autism

This is made of non-toxic sand. This is moldable and fun and kids enjoy scooping and creating shapes out of it.  This can be played outdoors, with other siblings and parents.  Both the parents and the kids are happy, spending more quality time together.  They can talk more and practice giving instructions to their kids with autism.  This will enhance gross motor and fine motor skills.  The creative and imaginative play of kids can also be enhanced as they build and create shapes out of the kinetic sand.  Imaginative play is a fun game to play, especially when the parents participate. The kids are happier when they play with their parents. They can be themselves.  And we all know how happy the parents are when their kids with autism become more expressive and creative. Ahh! Milestones are simply worthwhile.

Gross Motor Skills Activities For Autistic

Trampoline for Kids
This is a fun outdoor source of activity for kids with Autism with ADHD

                Trampolines can keep kids with autism with ADHD entertained for hours on end.  They can jump to their heart’s content. These are mainly outdoor activities that can be done with kids. Jump in the trampoline with them and you will see how fun it is! Parents can jump with their kids. They can sing, hold hands, sing while jumping. Kids laugh more, and the parents are happier.

Backyard Discovery Buckley Hill Wooden Swing Set
An outdoor playground that is enjoyable for the family

                This is an outdoor activity that not only the kids will enjoy, but the adults as well.  They can have a picnic on the grass while the kids will play. The parents can enjoy their time outside, and even bond over a game or coffee, while the kids are preoccupied with the swing and the slides. Allotting more time for the spouse can do a lot for the marriage. And a happy marriage results in a happy family.

SoftZone Climb and Crawl Activity Play Set
An activity play set that can be set up by kids themselves

                This is easy to use and clean. These are kids- and adult-friendly foam shapes that can be used in play therapy.  The adults can enjoy them as well. Being that they are very easy to clean, makes the cleaning up part, stress-free. Thereby giving the adults more time to play and be with the kids, creating another opportunity to fortify that bond that you have with your kids. Happier kids make the best and fast learners.

Kids Ball Pit Tents and Tunnels
A great gift for kids to develop gross motor skills

                This is a great gift for kids who love to have parties and games. Also, it’s a great way to make your kids socialize with their peers.  When kids with autism start to socialize, they develop language and interest in others, making them aware of their surroundings and other people. This is a very great milestone for both their kids and their parents.  When they become aware and grow an interest in playing with others, they become like any normal social human being. Parents can be appeased on the thought that their kid with autism can initiate relationships with his peers, and eventually converse with them as well.

Brain Activities For Autistic Kids

Wooden Blocks Puzzle Brain Teasers Toy
An awesome toy for brain stimulation

                Some may think that kids with autism do not and cannot solve puzzles. But the fact of the matter is, they love puzzles. They are so into these that they can easily solve these just by watching (for visual and developed spatial reasoning). In a study conducted on puzzles and play-doh effects on kids with autism, results have shown that puzzles influence the logical-mathematical intelligence of kids with autism.[8] This is very helpful for the brain development of these kids. It also influences the reasoning part of the brain. 

Handling Autistic Kids

                Spending quality time with our kids will do us a lot of good. All these toys and things that were discussed here are just mere helpers or tools that will help us support our autistic kids. But the time we give them, for play or teaching or learning, is what is going to give them a near-normal life. Follow-throughs at home by parents will greatly affect the success of kids undergoing therapy—be it behavioral, speech, or play. Special kids make the happiest and most interesting homes we can have.

[1] Gibson, Amelia N., Samantha Kaplan, and Emily Vardell. “A survey of information source preferences of parents of individuals with autism spectrum disorder.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 47.7 (2017): 2189-2204.

[2] Solomon, Alexandra H., and Beth Chung. “Understanding autism: How family therapists can support parents of children with autism spectrum disorders.” Family process 51.2 (2012): 250-264.

[3] Hillman, Heidi. “Child-centered play therapy as an intervention for children with autism: A literature review.” International Journal of Play Therapy 27.4 (2018): 198.

[4] Salter, Kerri, Wendi Beamish, and Mike Davies. “The effects of child-centered play therapy (CCPT) on the social and emotional growth of young Australian children with autism.” International Journal of Play Therapy 25.2 (2016): 78.

[5] Mikkelsen, Mark, et al. “Autism spectrum disorder in the scope of tactile processing.” Developmental cognitive neuroscience 29 (2018): 140-150.

[6] Lester, Jessica. “The Sensory Child Gets Organized: Proven Systems for Rigid, Anxious, or Distracted Kids.” Teachers College Record.

[7] Sutapa, Panggung, et al. “Differences of Influence of Playing Playdough and Puzzles on Fine Motor Skills and Logical-Mathematical Intelligence in Early Childhood.” 2nd Yogyakarta International Seminar on Health, Physical Education, and Sport Science (YISHPESS 2018) and 1st Conference on Interdisciplinary Approach in Sports (CoIS 2018). Atlantis Press, 2018.

[8] Sutapa, Panggung, et al. “Differences of Influence of Playing Playdough and Puzzles on Fine Motor Skills and Logical-Mathematical Intelligence in Early Childhood.” 2nd Yogyakarta International Seminar on Health, Physical Education, and Sport Science (YISHPESS 2018) and 1st Conference on Interdisciplinary Approach in Sports (CoIS 2018). Atlantis Press, 2018.

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Vivian Perry

Vivian Perry

Mother of 3 kids. Enjoy reading parenting books and studied child care degree. Vivian loves to learn and write about parenting tips and help her kids to grow positively with grit mindset.