How Group Activities Work in an Autism Therapy Setting
As a parent of a child with autism, you might be skeptical about group sessions. You may have watched your child struggle on the playground or worried about them getting along with their peers.
Within these tailored group sessions, we give kids the chance to explore their innate creativity and work on their social skills at the same time. Many children with autism benefit from observational learning from their peers and a supportive, safe environment where they can work on following group instructions.
Tailoring Group Play to Your Child
All this said, we know that different children have different needs and comfort levels. When your preschooler gets put in a group situation, it’s important that the therapist works flexibly with them.
For example, at Stride Autism Centers, we meet our learners where they’re at. Some kids love working on a multi-step art project alongside their peers, while others want to forge their own art exploration path. We might set those kids up with art and sensory materials like paint, water beads, or beans.
Again, we know that children learn best when they’re having fun, and we know fun looks differently for different children. We always return to that core value when we’re planning group activities for each individual child.
Some examples of group activities for preschoolers with autism
Let’s give you some solid examples of what group play might look like for your child. At Stride Autism Centers, our group learning sessions vary throughout the day, but they generally include:
- Art: At Stride, children have opportunities to explore using different materials to express themselves creatively, like paint, drawing implements, and glue. This isn’t just a great opportunity to practice working with different school supplies. It’s also a chance to work on following directions, completing a task, and writing/identifying their name. Our art projects give learners a rough outline (e.g., “make a snowman”) while allowing them to individualize what they create. At the same time, we weave in developmentally appropriate goals, like matching, identifying colors, differentiating textures, and following steps.
- Music: With Stride, children will learn “Hello” and “Goodbye” songs. If they want to, we also give them the chance to interact with different toys and musical instruments to work on rhythm and imitation skills. Music gives early learners the opportunity to practice greetings, learn names, and tap into clear cues that the day is beginning and ending.
- Dance and play: To music, we dance together to give kids an encouraging space in which to practice learning routines and following directions. These dance and play sessions also allow children to practice imitation skills, which play a key role in learning.
- Spirit days: Periodically, we host fun (but completely optional) dress-up days, like hat day, dress-as-your-favorite-superhero day, or mismatch day. These help us build a sense of community and belonging for our preschool learners and our staff. Our spirit days give children the opportunity to flex their creativity and step a little bit outside their comfort zones, too.
Additionally, we integrate other group activities like:
- Sensory play
- Group games (e.g., freeze dance, Simon says, duck duck goose)
- Snack time and lunch
- Circle time for counting, names, calendar skills, and more
Group activities can help preschoolers with autism learn key skills and feel more comfortable socially, all without pushing them too far or putting them on edge. If you want to learn more about what group activities could look like for your unique child, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team.