Games for ASD

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
  • Turn-taking
  • Concentration
  • 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)
  • Cariboo
  • I Spy
  • Pop the Pig

School Age

  • Chutes and Ladders
  • Apples-to-Apples
  • Candyland
  • Jenga
  • Uno
  • Trouble
  • Sorry!
  • Headbanz
  • Mad Libs

Middle School

  • Apples to Apples
  • Jeopardy Labs
  • Mad Libs
  • What Do You Meme?

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