Every parent wants the best for their children, regardless of their age or ability. From the day of their birth to their graduation and beyond, you strive to create a happy, healthy environment for them. Teens with autism may require some extra support to get through these difficult years. The good news is a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is certainly able to have a fulfilling and happy childhood. The key to maintaining the strong connection you made with your teen during their childhood is to be consistently prepared and engaged in their activities.
Activities for Teens With Autism
While television is an easy option, it isn’t always the best as it doesn’t require you or your teen to engage with each other. We’ve put together a list of six of the best activities you can do with your teen with ASD that will not only keep them engaged but will also build their relationship with you.
Before we dive into the specific activities that are beneficial to teens with ASD, it’s important to understand and evaluate your child’s needs. For many teens with autism, communication and socialization doesn’t come easy. This is why it’s important to engage them in social activities, as well as giving them opportunities to perform activities they can do alone. Social activities teach them to adapt to and mitigate social anxiety. That being said, an overload of social activities can be overwhelming so it’s also important to make time for individual activities. The first three activities we’ll look at here fall into the individual activities and the last three will be more social, cooperative activities.
This one probably seems obvious; however, it’s especially important for children and teens with autism because studies have shown that they benefit from reading mentally, emotionally, and socially. Reading develops cognitive functions like comprehension and learning. Any genre of book is helpful, but educational, scientific, and nonfiction books yield the best results to keep your child’s brain active and facilitate their learning skills. Choose simple but interesting books, and when possible make time in their schedule for reading. Most children and teens with autism thrive on a schedule so making time every day for reading will help ensure they are enjoying and engaging with this activity.
Movies and television are inevitable and can be a great resource in developing social and comprehension skills. That being said, Netflix only scratches the surface when it comes to the potential of technology. For example, instead of watching a movie, encourage your teen to draw with an app on a tablet or put together a virtual puzzle. This provides an outlet for creativity, promotes skill development, and increases logical comprehension.
Alternatively, you and your teen can go on a “field trip” to a museum or zoo using virtual reality headsets and an interactive app/website. Many museums, zoos, aquariums, and parks now offer a variety of prerecorded and live streams of their attractions. Everything from the Louvre to Legoland is available in a virtual, interactive tour. These tours are beneficial because they allow your child to experience these locations, and they also provide a safe, quiet place to explore without crowds and extra stimuli.
Lastly, don’t be afraid to play video games. Video games often get a bad reputation, but they can actually be excellent for skill-building. If they’re playing a puzzle game, it will require them to use logic. A role-playing or story-focused game will encourage creativity and comprehension. A time management game helps them understand rules and practical multitasking. Every child is different and will prefer different games, but with a little experimentation, your teen is sure to find something that excites them and keeps their brain active.
Of course, we all know music can be incredibly relaxing! But for children and teens with ASD, studies have shown that music is therapeutic, improves communication, and develops auditory-motor skills. Start with simple, interesting songs, which might include stimulating lyrics or complex melodies and musical arrangements. This is a great way to assist your child in acclimating to new experiences. If they already enjoy music, push them a bit further by enrolling them in music lessons or encouraging them to join a choir. If that’s too uncomfortable for them, then simply encouraging them to sing helps them develop their communication and auditory skills while promoting relaxation.
Being outside is a great way to engage both your child’s mind and body. Enjoying nature has been proven to improve cognition, emotional awareness, physical activity, and artistic sensitivity. Even if all your child does is read a book outside, it will still allow them to connect with nature and gain an understanding of the world around them. Specifically, this is useful for artistically inclined individuals because it hones in on their comprehension of light, color, and form.
Nature encourages teens with autism to explore and engage with their peers which increases social and creative skills. Of course, it’s important to mention the benefits of vitamin D from the sun. However, be sure to slather on sunscreen, and don’t let them spend so much time outside that it negatively impacts their normal routine.
Exercise is packed with benefits that increase your health, your mood, and improve sleep quality! Obviously, exercise can be done as an individual activity but it’s even better as a team activity. Playing a sport will develop communication and teamwork skills because your child will need to work with others while learning the importance of rules. Playing sports is a focused social activity meaning if your child starts to feel any social anxiety, they will be able to withdraw as needed and focus on the game. This is especially useful when introducing them to strangers because camaraderie is instantly formed but not forced. If your child doesn’t love sports, consider introducing them to yoga, dancing, hiking, or other activities that allow them to be active around other people. Any activity that involves movement has been shown to improve overall quality of life.
Adopt a Companion
Emotional support animals (ESA) are becoming more and more common. They are great pets, and they offer support and comfort as a companion for your child. A normal pet will often be a great friend for your child, but certified emotional support animals are trained to behave in certain ways to calm and support your child. Now, you might be wondering why this specifically falls into the social activities list; studies have shown that children with pets and/or ESAs develop social skills faster, sleep better, and are physically healthier.
Dogs are loyal companions that push your child to be active and engaged, while cats are more likely to soothe and comfort during socially and emotionally difficult situations. Whatever ESA or pet you decide is best for your teen, there is no doubt you’ll be investing in your child’s learning and future with their special companion.
Get Support With Integrity, Inc.
Raising teens is hard enough. Puberty and hormones cause more than a little anxiety for parents and children. Teens with autism are no exception. There is no checklist explaining how to raise a teen with ASD; however, if you put in the time and effort, you can be sure your child will develop and grow. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help from your loved ones or connect with other parents via online groups and blogs. Also, look for local programs that support both you and your child. We at Integrity, Inc. offer support, education, therapy, and care that helps you and your special needs child thrive. Licensed by the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Developmental Disability Services, you can trust that you have professional, experienced staff at your fingertips. If you’re in the Little Rock, Arkansas area, click here for more information.