It can be incredibly difficult to get learners with Autism Spectrum Disorders to engage with peers or siblings. There are a few items out there though that may help you succeed in facilitating peer interaction. The main clue that it will be a good game for your student is if there is some motivating factor to encourage the student to attend to other players in the game.
1. CooCoo the Clown by BlueOrange Games – This game has a great anticipation aspect that can make it just as fun for the learner to see others engage with the toy as it is to engage with the toy on his/her own. Many of my students attend more to what their peer or sibling is doing on their turn, and some have spontaneously made specific requests about the peer or sibling’s next action on their turn. I’ve had success using this toy with students as young as three and as old as eight.
2. ToonTastic by LaunchPad Toys – This is an iPad app that allows for students to give voice and action to characters on the screen. It is easy to modify and, because it’s highly motivating, many students are able to practice appropriate social interactions with it. This app is motivating for a huge age range of students, which makes it great to use with siblings or peers who might be a different age or at a different functioning level than your student.
3. Quercetti Super Saxoflute – I love this toy more than words can say. It includes several pieces that a student can use to create his/her own instrument. Again, the materials are highly motivating, and my students always enjoy comparing their instruments to the instruments of others, be they peers, siblings, or adults. My students like to see how the other instruments look different and sound different. A further description of this toy, along with skills and modifications will be on the blog later this week.
4. Sandwich Stacking Game by Melissa & Doug – Definitely one of the silliest games that I own, this is one of the few games that also has the distinction of motivating 100% of my students. It comes with two sets of bread-shaped gloves, so play is limited to two players. However, my students always attend to the other person playing, and can’t stop giggling every time we play. I’d say that makes a winner.
5. Parachutes – This can be a great tool for peer or sibling interaction by giving the peer or sibling control of the motivating factor. For example, if your student loves to lay on the floor and have the parachute opened up and dropped slowly down on his/her body, then allow the peer or sibling to control the parachute. Or if your student loves to bounce objects up and down on the parachute, give the peer or sibling control of the objects. This is a great activity if your student has more than one sibling, if the whole family wants to get involved, or if there is a larger peer group available. It allows for natural instances of eye contact, natural instances of manding for actions from peers and siblings, and a lot of fun in a highly active way.
If you’ve had success in encouraging peer interactions with other games, apps, and toys, please leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments section!