Age level: Early Elementary, Upper Elementary
Description: I was pretty excited when Thinkfun offered me another free game, but I had no idea that it would so quickly become a student favorite. This unique matching game uses transparent cards to develop visual and spatial thinking skills. The goal is to collect cards by making matches, or Swishes. The player who collects the most cards wins the game.
Skills & Modifications: While the instructions included with the game provide ideas for making the game more difficult, they do not include ideas for making the game easier. When I introduced this game to students, I introduced it in steps to determine what level to begin with. You can see my steps for introducing the game below (click to enlarge.) Introducing it in steps was essential for allowing my students to experience success with the game.
The other aspect to this game that students with autism might find difficult is speed. The idea is to find the “Swishes” before anybody else does. I modify the game in this regard by matching my own speed to that of the students or working to find peers who are playing the game at a similar rate. For one student, I allowed him to play the game as a single-player game. He made “Swishes” as quickly as he could and enjoyed it as an independent activity.
Scanning – The game naturally focuses on higher-order scanning, as students have to scan all the cards on the table (or floor) and think about their relationships to one another. To modify the game to meet a child’s current skill level for scanning, you’ll see on my data sheet that I reduce the number of cards in the field of play.
Matching – At its most basic, this is a high level matching game. As with scanning, I modify the game to meet the child’s current level of matching by reducing the number of cards in the field of play.
Critical Thinking – While I introduce this game by allowing students to pick up the cards and try to find matches through trial and error, the ultimate goal is that they will be able to mentally rotate the cards to find the matches. This can be exceedingly difficult for many of my students, but the design of these cards motivates them enough to keep trying. One student in particular kept saying “This is so hard,” but she continued to try. I was surprised that her motivation was strong enough to increase her frustration tolerance. With other games, when it gets too hard, she usually swipes all the materials from the table. With this game, she remained focused and enjoyed the process of thinking critically.
Spatial Skills/Orientation – This is the only game I currently have that uses highly motivating materials to practice skills for manipulating materials by turning them over or turning them around. Many students with autism struggle with concepts related to spatial skills and require prompts to manipulate materials by rotating them or turning them over completely. However, some students I work with have much higher skill levels with visual performance and spatial skills than they do in other domains. One student I used this with quickly mastered the concept, and enjoyed playing the game with me or as an independent puzzle. This was especially beneficial for him because he rarely interacts with materials appropriately when working independently. But Swish, Jr. met his current skill level and was challenging enough to keep him focused on the task presented by the game.
Pros: The materials are highly motivating and allow practice of visual & spatial skills in a unique way. The game also encourages mentally working out a problem before moving the materials.
Cost: $12.99 You should invest in this game if: you are a classroom teacher in early elementary, you are focusing on visual perception and/or critical thinking skills with a child, or you are a parent trying to find a game that will motivate more than one child. (While this game does not directly encourage peer interaction, it can be played simultaneously by multiple children with different skill levels.)
ABLLS: B7, K5
VB-MAPP: VP-MTS 5, Social 4, VP-MTS 9, VP-MTS 10
**Swish, Jr. was provided to me for free by the company ThinkFun to write about here at Teach Through. This did not influence my opinions on the game. The thoughts and ideas above are all my own.