Sunday, November 22, 2009

Structuring And Presenting Games

Below is a preview page from my soon to be launched New and Updated Autism Games Website:


From the Parent Tips Section


In order to entice your child into playing with you, you need to understand how to structure a game so that your child understands what you are doing and wants to participate. I work with many parents who struggle with this part, even after seeing the video clips of the games, so read this and then watch some clips. Most children with autism don't play with others because they don't understand what others are doing.  These are the components of a good social game: 


  1. Predictable--meaning that we do the same things in the same order each time.
  2. Repetitive--which is kind of like predictable but we do the same things many times in a row.
  3. Simple--meaning that we don't do very many things and adults don't say very many things.
  4. Centered on a sensory delight like swinging or spinning
  5. Visual, not verbal--meaning that we teach this little social game by doing it and we talk very little or not at all.
  6. Playful--which means that adults appear playful and the game appears fun.
  7. Voluntary--while we invite the child to join, we don't push the child in any way to participate.  Sometimes this means that we don't even look expectantly at the child.
  8. Impossible for the child without adult involvement--which means that the child cannot enjoy this game without an adult doing his or her part, often meaning that the adult must keep control of the materials.
  9. Within the child's capacity.  Often it is not possible for a child with autism to request or participate in a game so creating games that have a part that the child absolutely can do is important.
  10. Clear -especially a clear role for the child--meaning that when the adult stops the game at some point, often mid-way through a routine, the child can continue the game in some way--with a word or an action, thus keeping the game moving between child and play partner.
  11. Changing but gradually. Add new elements to keep your child interested but keep the routine predictable so your child can recognize what game you are playing.  The element that changes provides your child with new words to learn, now motor skills to practice, new patterns of social interaction to experience.
  12. Distraction free.  Don't make it harder by having other things around that distract the child.  Clear other toys or distractions away.

Video Model of a Beginning Level Game:





Make This Game Work for Your Child



  1. Predictable--meaning that we do the same things in the same order each time.
    1. Your child might pay attention to this game and notice that we are say saying Up Cow  but you might need to just say Up over and over as you set something up in  a row.  Getting your child to watch you do this could be a challenge and you might be better off teaching your child to pay attention to the word Up while picking him up and setting him down in a Moving Together game. 
  2. Repetitive--which is kind of like predictable but we do the same things many times in a row.
    1. Your child may not notice that you are doing the same thing over and over if the sequence is too long, if there are too many other distracting things going on, if what you are doing is not of any interest in the first place.
  3. Simple--meaning that we don't do very many things and adults don't say very many things.
    1. This game is very simple in both words and actions but might need to be still more simple to get a child's attention.  For example, one could just say Up and just say Knock it Down, letting your child knock all the animals down at once.
  4. Centered on a sensory delight like swinging or spinning
    1. In this case, the sensory delight is the click of the animal on the white fence (actually a piece of white plastic gutter), then the line of animals that form as they go up in a row, then the fun of knocking the animals down.
  5. Visual, not verbal--meaning that we teach this little social game by doing it and we talk very little or not at all.
    1. This game could be done entirely without words until the moment when your child is invited to knock the animals down and then perhaps you could use a different sequence of words like Ready, Set, GO!  to extend the invitation.
  6. Playful--which means that adults appear playful and the game appears fun.
    1. It is amazing how often adults turn play into learning drill with too many off topic questions and too much insistence that the child play as the adult intended and demonstrate learning at every turn.   For example, many adults might interrupt this simple game routine to ask, What does the cow say?  or How many animals are there?  These questions make if hard for the child to enjoy the predictable routine of the game.  The questions are probably too hard for a child who would be playing this game but even if the child could answer these questions, why would that be fun?  It is possible to teach animal names or sounds or anything else in this routine if some thought is given to how this could be done.  At some point, the animals could be handed to the child and then he or she could name the animal since that is part of the routine.  A parent could fill in the names if the child does not readily name them to keep the routine going until the child knows all the names.  If a parent wanted to count all the animals before the child knocks them down, then counting could become part of the routine. This would be interesting if a different number of animals were set up each time.  Wow!  Eight Animals!  you might announce, then Knock um Down!  Many skills can be integrated in and be part of the fun but answering questions during a routine takes the fun right out of a game. 
  7. Voluntary--while we invite the child to join, we don't push the child in any way to participate.  Sometimes this means that we don't even look expectantly at the child.
    1. Most of us know when someone wants us to do something and there is a big difference between being invited to do something and expected to do something. We are free to turn down invitations.  Often parents communicate expectations by looking expectant and this can work or it can kill the possibility of a child willingly joining a game.  Try not looking at your child as you hand him or her a toy and see if this helps to overcome reluctance.  My experience is that children join in when the game is at the right level, is interesting, is demonstrated often enough to be familiar, and looks fun because the adults playing it are having fun.
  8. Impossible for the child without adult involvement--which means that the child cannot enjoy this game without an adult doing his or her part, often meaning that the adult must keep control of the materials.
    1. You are aiming toward social interaction so you and your child both need a part in the game.  If you keep control of the animals, then your child is more apt to tolerate you handing the last one in the row to him or her to put on the "fence".  Your job may be to put them up and your child then has the job of knocking them down.  Insist on having a part and invite your child to take a part of the game but not to take over the game entirely and disappear into another room. 
  9. Within the child's capacity.  Often it is not possible for a child with autism to request or participate in a game so creating games that have a part that the child absolutely can do is important.
    1. Most games have too many steps and skills.  This game includes putting an animal on the "fence" and saying Up ____  which means remembering the animal's name.  It repeats this step until the fence is filled up.  Then it involves saying Bye bye ___ and if you are talking and your child is knocking the named animal down, he or she must comprehend the animal name and be able to inhibit the desire to knock all the animals down at once and be able to aim at just one animal and not accidentally knock down others.  This might be way too many steps and skills.  So, if it is, simplify the game and make it harder as your child learns more skills and can remember more steps.
  10. Clear -especially a clear role for the child--meaning that when the adult stops the game at some point, often mid-way through a routine, the child can continue the game in some way--with a word or an action, thus keeping the game moving between child and play partner.
    1. At the beginning, you may want to demonstrate the whole game or make a video clip demonstration (if your child will watch a video model)  and then, when your child has seen how the routine goes, pause and invite your child to play by, for example saying Bye Bye Boy (the last one standing) and waiting.  Gradually, include your child in the game more and more.  Remember to keep the game moving back and forth between you and your child with each of you taking a part even when your child knows the whole routine. 
  11. Ever-changing but gradually changing.  Add new elements and change the routine in some way to keep your child interested but keep the routine predictable enough that your child will recognize what game you are playing and know what to do.  The element that changes allows your child to learn new words, new motor skills to practice, new patterns of social interaction.

    1. Think about what you want your child to learn and use these simple games that you and your child play as a vehicle to teach new skills.  Suppose you want your child to learn his or her colors.  Then this game could be played with colored blocks where you say Bye Bye Green and Bye Bye Red as you knock blocks down.  Gradually, you demonstrate the color names within the framework of a game your child understands and enjoys.  Perhaps you want your child to play with an older sibling.  You teach your older child to play the game EXACTLY as you have taught it and then put your children together to play this game with the older child playing the harder role if need be.  Perhaps you want teach your child to help you load the dishwasher.  As you put each dish into the dishwasher you say Bye Bye Dish and Bye Bye Cup.


  12. Distraction free.  Don't make it harder by having other things around that distract the child.  Clear other toys or distractions away.

2 comments:

Mẹ Cong said...

Hi,

I have translated part of this post here into my native language.
http://games4cong.blogspot.com/2009/11/cac-len-va-tien-hanh-tro-choi.html

Paulene Angela said...

Oh this info. is so wonderful and fab., I really need it in Spanish to show other members of our local association.

When you have the website up and running, hopefully with a translate facility !! I'll make a direct link to your site and this page, as I am so squeezed with time to translate.

Best Wishes, Paulene