Thursday, March 4, 2010

How to Host a Play Date for Your Child With Autism

Social interaction is not something that comes naturally for children on the autism spectrum. Often times these kids are isolated, preferring to play by themselves, and they are rarely invited to play with others. Recently an adult autistic friend of mine shared that she was *never* invited to a birthday party or play date growing up. How can one learn to socially interact, without a chance to practice?

One way parents can help their child with autism is to host a play date. Hosting a play date can seem daunting but I have found many people are willing to bring their children over to play when asked. When G was younger I explained to neighbors and classmates that they could help G's life, by just playing with him. Their child's play could have a direct impact on his future quality of life and independence.

Here are a Few Helpful Tips for Hosting a Play Date for Your Child with Autism:
  • Before the play date come up with a schedule with your child. Decide which games will be played and in what order. We wrote our schedule out with pictures, when we finished something my son loved to cross it off the list. Schedule a snack break and decide which snack will be offered. Also include clean up time at the end of the play date this will help your child to transition at the end of the date.

  • If there are toys that are difficult for your child to share put them away before the play date begins. For us this meant putting away all of the die cast jet airplanes.

  • Don't make the play date too long. One hour is fine, its best to have success and leave both children wanting more time together.

  • Keep it small one friend is best. Remember if you invite more than one child the social interactions will become more complex. It will be harder for your child to engage socially.

  • Choose activities your child enjoys and is competent in. Now is not the time to learn a new game. If your child feels successful there will be less frustration and a better time.

  • Prepare for the end of the play date in advanced. No one likes to end a good time! Practice with your child ahead of time how the play date will end. Have a reward or incentive waiting for them after their friend leaves.

  • To help your child prepare for the end of the play date give a 10 to 20 minute warning that the play date will end.

  • Observe your child's behavior during the play date so you can determine what needs to be worked on. Provide assistance as necessary, but try to be a background observer. Remember no one likes to be embarrassed. As much as possible work on behaviors after your child’s friend has left.

  • Establish a relationship with the child’s parents. Learning social skills is a process. Your child may make several social mistakes. Thank the parent for allowing their child to tutor yours and assure them that you are working with your child to help them grow socially.

  • After the guests leave, send the parent a quick email thanking them for coming.

  • My last tip is this, kids love yummy snacks. I made homemade cookie dough and froze enough for a dozen cookies. An hour before a play date I would bake a dozen cookies the parent's and the kids enjoyed it.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. -Lao-tzu


me said...

Bonnie: It would be great to use our birthday party info. for others. That was so much fun and not the least bit intimidating. Re: pin the tail on whatever they drew? re? candles on cupcakes, cakes, pizza? love, me

Bonnie said...

Oh me what a great idea! Its so good to see you here. I'll write on our birthday party info nest time. Love me too!

Chynna said...

Bonnie, these are all wonderful tips. I've used several of these with Jaimie (who had her very first playdate here a couple of weeks ago! YAY JAIMIE!! LOL!)

I found what really helped with Jaimie was when she got a bit agitated in between activities, we ran around in the basement or took turns jumping on the mini-tramp or climbed on our climbing wall...all the things we usually do as part of her Sensory Diet but mixing it in with 'normal' play so it's fun for everyone.

We even have a homemade MEGA dice with different animals on it that we play "Move Like A..." game: You roll the dice then all move like that animal that shows up.

I'm going to link your tips to my site, if that's okay. These are brilliant.

Thanks for sharing.


danette said...

Those are great ideas!

Adoption of Jane said...

Awesome ideas!! I never thought of hiding the Lego's!! He will not share them and is quite the Lego Builder!! Thanks for the tips!!