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Children with autism have special challenges and special strengths. These make them unique, but kids on the autism spectrum have different learning requirements. They interact with external stimuli and process data and experiences in different ways.
If your child is on the autism spectrum, you have an opportunity to aid his or her development. The first step is to create a safe, accessible and functional playground in the backyard, one set up ways to overcome social problems, communication challenges and learning disabilities.
Playtime is an essential for the development of all children, so much so that the United Nations officially listed playtime as a human right. It aids physical and cognitive development, helps develop problem-solving abilities, alleviates stress and benefits the imagination. Safe exposure to sunlight allows children to receive vitamin D, which helps strengthen the immune system. If your child has autism, he may have different play interests than other kids. Here are a few ideas for setting up a creative and safe outdoor play environment.
If you set up a swing set, make sure it’s safe and sturdy with no jagged edges or exposed screws or nails, and make a rule about how high he’s allowed to swing.
Try building a bird sanctuary with your child. Allow your son or daughter to feel the different kinds of birdseed you’ll lay out, and let them experience the joy and satisfaction of building something with their hands. Once your birdhouse is in place and feeding the neighborhood aviaries, make sure your son or daughter gets a good view of the birds benefiting from their handiwork. Use the opportunity to teach your child about different kinds of birds and keep a bird book handy so you can identify each species that flies by. You might even inspire other kids in the neighborhood might to try building their own birdhouse.
Fun in the sand
Children on the autism spectrum often learn through tactile experience. A sandbox can be a fun way to interact with nature and help your child learn how natural elements can be used as building material. Show him how to build a sand castle, roads, and to use his imagination to create something of his own design. Sand is a fun way for people of all ages to play – just look at all the beautiful sand architectural designs that are created on the beach every summer.
You can create some beautifully colored bubbles with soap, water and food coloring. Show your child how to blow bubbles using this mixture and challenge him to try and catch as many as they can. Just grab all the kitchen tools that have holes and use them as “bubble wands.” Before you know it, the whole backyard will be awash in pretty, colored bubbles, and you’ll have one happy and delighted youngster.
Grow a garden
Create a small gardening space that your child can experiment with digging in the dirt and planting vegetables, flowers and herbs. Pique your child’s interest by purchasing a gardening kit, with plastic shovel, watering can and a good, sturdy pair of gardening gloves. Use the opportunity to stress the importance of handwashing with warm water and soap after an afternoon digging in the dirt.
Kids on the autism spectrum sometimes get overstimulated when playing. Give your child a place in the backyard he can retreat to when he feels overwhelmed. A tent or play tunnel can be a good way of escaping into his own world for a little while.
Summer isn’t just a time for play and mischief; it’s also a great time for learning. Your autistic child can have a great time while learning about nature and how to use his hands to make things. Make sure he understands the importance of observing safety rules, even when playing.