by: Zoe Giatis
Play is the language of childhood, which is why if you ever watch an autism speech-language therapy session, you may not even realize the speech therapist (or the child) is actually “working!”
Board games can be a great “communication temptation,” meaning it motivates kids to engage. It can also be an excellent tool for teaching key life skills, especially for older kids, teens and adults.
- Maintaining Eye Contact
- Improving Communication
- Self-regulation of Emotions
- Better Understanding Others’ Emotions
The exact benefits of a board game really depend on what it is and the child or teen’s individual therapy goals.
In general, top therapy board game benefits are:
- Promotion of social interaction. Board games require participants to communicate with other players.
- Practice following directions. A critical skill in so many settings, and board games are a fun way to practice this.
- Turn-taking. Key to socializing is turn-taking, which builds patience.
- Rule predictability. This is often a comfort to many on the autism spectrum.
- Inclusion. All members of the group can participate/play! It teaches older/higher-functioning/typically-developing kids more patience and understanding too.
- Fine motor skill practice. Players are required to move game pieces, be aware of other players’ pieces, draw cards, spin wheels, write scores – all of it helps with fine motor skills.
- Use of language skills. The game “Guess Who” is a good example. Players ask and answer yes-no questions to determine the identity of the other person’s player.
- Overcoming big emotions and conflicts. We all know it’s, “just a game,” but winning and losing can FEEL like a very big deal to a kid. Working through some of the tougher emotions especially is important.
Some of the board games, I love include (depending on the child’s age and abilities):
Preschool / Early Language
- Pop Up Pirate
- Zingo! (Bingo/Memory)
- I Spy
- Pop the Pig
- Chutes and Ladders
- Mad Libs
- Apples to Apples
- Jeopardy Labs
- Mad Libs
- What Do You Meme?