Games that develop social skills in special needs kids
One of the most painful parts of parenting a child with special needs is watching your child stand on the sidelines while others play. Often, kids on the autism spectrum or with sensory processing disorders want to join their peers in play but lack the social skills necessary. Early Intervention Games, by Barbara Sher, helps parents and caregivers engage these kids so that they can play along.
Nearly every parent wonders at some point if her child is developing typically. And thanks to advances in screenings and diagnostic training, at-risk kids are identified early, when therapy can be the most beneficial. Although it can be terrifying to hear your pediatrician suggest a referral to your state's early intervention (EI) program, it's far from a death sentence. In fact, EI can be a positive, even fun, experience for you and your child.
In most states, EI services provide therapists who come to your home and work with your child weekly or more often, from birth through age three. But as all providers will be quick to tell you, that's only one small part of the program. Parents and caregivers are a critical component of the EI strategy -- a thought that can overwhelm even the best-intentioned parents.
A book of answers
Early Intervention Games by Barbara Sher can help parents and caregivers learn what -- and how -- to play with their children to best encourage social, motor, and developmental growth. The book opens with two chapters that explain basic information about sensory and autism spectrum disorders and how the games presented address the challenges faced by kids with these disorders. These chapters are a great resource for parents who have just been handed a label and sent home to wonder and worry -- the information is clearly presented in straightforward language. Sher's emphasis is always on helping children reach new goals and acheive new heights -- a message parents can appreciate.
Finding games your child will love
The games are divided by categories: social gross motor, social fine motor, and water. Each game is presented with a title and a brief description -- for example, the game titled, "We Are Rocking." Children who enjoy repetitive motion will especially like this game because it takes them beyond where they could go on their own. Sher then outlines the games goals, any materials and setup needed, and gives simple directions for playing. In addition, she also offers variations on the game to keep it fresh and fun, and she provides a detailed description of what is being learned through play.
Modifications for children with different needs are presented for each game discussed -- an important element of the book, and one that parents will truly value.
Playtime for parents and kids
Parents who watch their children struggle in social settings will find a plethora of fantastic games in this book. For example, the bingo game is one where "no one dreads someone yelling, 'Bingo!' because everyone wins." In other words, you won't have to deal with a meltdown, tantrum, jealousy, or awkward apologies from the parents of the winners. The game is also much easier than traditional bingo and lets kids experience success from the start.
As you work through the book, you'll see Sher's gift for turning everyday experiences into games that encourage interaction and development. Over time, you'll be able to create your own games and work them into your child's daily routine. Whether you're a parent, caregiver, or friend to a special child, this is a great book to add to your shelf.