You've probably seen bumper stickers that look like puzzles calling for the cure for autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), as well as hundreds of books, articles and news pieces on what causes them. It's called a spectrum because some kids function at a high level while others barely function at all.
Estimates of how many children have autism vary -- the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke puts it at three to six kids out of every 1,000, while other statistics say that it strikes 1 out of 150 kids.
Here are a few activities that may benefit kids with autism in the areas that are tough for them:
- Face it: Face games are a way to work on social interaction. Like in an acting class, you can try "mirroring" with an autistic child: Touch your nose or stick out your tongue and have him or her imitate you. Make funny faces that the child can copy. Kids with autism often have trouble reading expressions and interacting socially, so activities that get them more comfortable with these situations are a great idea.
- Make some noise: For a lot of kids with ASDs, communication is frustrating for both child and adult. Music can bridge the gap. Something as simple as maintaining the rhythm on a drum can be satisfying for a lower-functioning kid, while someone on the other end of the spectrum might be interested in learning to read music. (For a child who's sensitive to sensory experience, you might want to choose an instrument that's limited in the number of sounds it produces.) With instruments, you get the added benefit of practicing motor skills. Singing is another way to communicate -- for some kids with autism, singing has shown to help with speech issues such as echolalia. Experts say that repetitive lyrics and sounds are the way to go.