Autism is a development disorder that appears in the first 3 years of a child’s life and it affects their social skills, communication skills and brain development. Play dates for kids with autism is a great way to help your child practice communication skills, play skills and social skills in a structured and safe environment. Many families with children with autism find it difficult to plan and prepare for a play date.
The following are tips for a successful play date;
- Thoughtful peer selection
Choose a child whose age is close to your child and displays age appropriate play skills, social and communication skills. The peer should be flexible and one who is able to play cooperatively. They should be able to give helpful suggestions to their friends. Your neighbors, members of your church and your child’s school can help you find a perfect match for your child.
- Proper planning
Make the play date for your child special and fun by choosing activities that both kids will enjoy. The activities should be organized, structured and should require some level of cooperation.
- Pre-teach the activities to your child
Ensure that you practice the planned activities with your child in advance. You can play the role of the other child.
- Set goals on what you want your child to learn
This increases the likelihood of the specific skills being learned during the date. Set the things you want your child to learn. Take notes on how your child performed on the specific goals that you set. For example you can look for activities where the children are expected to solve problems or work together.
- Keep it short
A play date should run for approximately 30 minutes for the first few dates. You can break the 30 minutes into other 10-15 minutes activities. Transitions between activities should be smooth and short.
- Provide reinforcement by facilitating the activities
Guide the children on how to play and encourage cooperative play. For positive interactions provide frequent praise.