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18 Social Skills Activities for Kids with Autism and Sensory Issues

If you’re looking for social skills activities for kids with autism, as well as practical tips to help you teach social skills to a child on the autism spectrum, you’ve come to the right place!

Autism and Social Skills

While no two children with autism are the same, and the range and intensity of symptoms varies from person to person, social dysfunction tends to stand out the most when interacting with a child on the autism spectrum. Some kids find back-and-forth dialogue difficult, preferring to talk only about a topic he or she is interested in, while others prefer to avoid social interactions completely.

To an outsider, it often seems as though these children prefer to play independently, and while that may be the case for some, many kids with autism genuinely want to form friendships with their peers.

They just don’t know how to do it!

In the face of communication challenges, sensory processing sensitivities, an inability to express their own emotions and understand the emotions of others, and problems with impulse control and self-regulation, the world is an overwhelming and confusing place for people with autism, and despite their best intentions, they often fall short when it comes to reading social cues and responding appropriately.

The good news is that it IS possible to teach social skills to kids with autism, and we have 25 tips and social skills activities to help.

Teaching Social Skills for Autism: 7 Tips for Parents

Be a good role model. One of the foundations of teaching social skills for autism is to model what appropriate socialization looks like for your child, and explain what you’re doing and why. This can be uncomfortable for parents and caregivers who are introverted, but when you model consistent and positive social behavior for your child, it will be easier for her to mimic these behaviors over time. Make it a point to greet those you encounter together on a daily basis, and engage in small talk wherever possible.

Role play. Another great way to teach social skills to kids with autism is to role play. You can come up with fictional situations to act out together, or you can re-enact scenes that already happened and discuss more appropriate ways to handle such interactions in the future. Remember to practice often and to be consistent to ensure the principals and ideas you are trying to teach your child resonate with her.

Use social stories and scripts. Social stories are written descriptions of everyday situations and events told from a child’s perspective. They are aimed at providing children with something to rehearse so they feel prepared once the situation described actually takes place, and can be an excellent strategy for teaching social skills to kids with autism. Social scripts are a little more generic in that they provide kids with a pre-defined list of things to say in certain situations, and while they are certainly useful in teaching kids how to start conversations and how to respond to small talk, they should be used with caution as they won’t work in every situation and can make kids sound too scripted.

Develop a list of social rules. If your child struggles to understand some of the nuances of socialization, like the importance of saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’, taking turns while talking, respecting personal space, etc., consider developing a list of ‘Social Rules’ for your child to abide by. Write them down on a white board and keep them somewhere visible so your child can refer to the list often, and if your child struggles to maintain the rules you’ve set forth, consider turning this into a reward system whereby your child earns a small treat for following a certain number of the rules you’ve set forth for her each day.

Enroll your child in social groups. Many major cities offer social groups for kids with autism, which are aimed at pairing children with similar abilities together in an effort to provide opportunities for them to practice important social skills like starting conversations and taking turns talking. This is often done through play, and while social groups can be highly beneficial, the uniqueness of autism can make it difficult to find other kids with similar social skills to your child.

Organize supervised playdates. If you’re interested in providing your child opportunities to socialize with her peers, but struggle to find kids with similar social abilities, consider hosting playdates with some of her school mates at your home and find ways to get involved so as to teach your child how to interact appropriately. Organize games and activities for the kids to enjoy during the playdate so your involvement seems natural, and find subtle ways to prompt your child. Alternatively, if the other parents are open to it, you might consider having one of your child’s therapists participate in the playdate so he/she can more appropriately teach your child what is expected of her.

Read books. There are heaps of great books filled with social learning tips and social skills activities for kids with autism, many of which are geared towards providing ideas to parents and caregivers. Here are of 6 my favorites!

  • The Zones of Regulation. The Zones of Regulation is a cognitive behavior based curriculum designed to help children learn how to regulate their emotions independently by teaching them how to identify their feelings and how their behavior impacts those around them. Developed by Leah M. Kuypers, the program teaches children how to recognize when they are in different emotional states called ‘zones’, which are represented by different colors. The Zones of Regulation uses activities to equip children with the tools they need to regulate their actions and stay in one zone (or move from one zone to another), allowing them increased control and problem-solving abilities, which will in turn help them understand how to interact in social settings, and how their actions may be perceived by and impact others. If your child struggles with self-control and lacks the ability to understand her emotions as well as the feelings of others, I highly recommend the program, and this book is a great starting point.
  • You Are a Social Detective. This is an introductory book to the Social Thinking curriculum, and kids love it! Through fun cartoons, kids learn to distinguish between ‘expected’ and ‘unexpected’ social behaviors, and as they work through the book with a parent, therapist, or teacher, they will learn other ‘social smarts’, which will help them understand how they should and shouldn’t behave in social settings.
  • The New Social Story Book. If you’re interested in using social stories to teach your children social skills and/or need inspiration on how to create your own social stories, this book is a great place to start. With over 150 social stores to choose from, these stories will help you teach your child how to recognize and respond to social cues, and how to make and maintain friendships.
  • Social Skills Handbook for Autism: Activities to Help Kids Learn Social Skills and Make Friends. With more than 50 meaningful social skills activities to choose from, this book is packed with ideas to help parents, therapists, and teachers teach social skills to kids with autism.
  • How to Make & Keep Friends: Tips for Kids to Overcome 50 Common Social Challenges. This book comes highly recommended from parents with older kids on the autism spectrum who struggle to make and maintain friendships.
  • The Autism Activities Handbook: Activities to Help Kids Communicate, Make Friends, and Learn Life Skills. With more than 30 games and activities to help children on the spectrum learn different developmental skills like following directions, interacting with peers, developing social skills, and improving their communication and language skills, I highly recommend this book!

Social Skills Activities for Kids with Autism

And now for the fun part! If you’re looking for social skills activities for kids with autism and other developmental delays, this collection of 18 ideas is perfect for home, school, therapy, and social group settings, and double as fabulous one-on-one activities you can enjoy with your child when you want to spend some good ‘ole quality time together.

Kids Activities that Teach Emotions

Emotions Match Up | Teachers Pay Teachers
Teachers Pay Teachers offers all kinds of helpful activities and games to help kids work on specific skills, and this Uno-inspired match-up game presents thought-probing questions about emotions, situations, and strategies which not only serve as an excellent teaching tool, but also helps foster conversation skills!

Emotions Sorting Game | Mom Endeavors
If your child struggles with emotional regulation, this is a great activity to explore. It’s based on the movie Inside Out, and these Inside Out figures provide so many opportunities to teach kids about anger, sadness, fear, disgust, and joy!

Zones of Regulation Twister | Unknown
If your kids enjoy the classic game Twister, this is a great Zones of Regulation activity, and you can set this up so many different ways. For example, when your child puts a hand on a certain color, he must tell you about a time he was in that colored zone, and when he puts his foot on a certain color, he must tell you about a strategy he used while in that colored zone to help him get back to the green zone.

Kids Activities that Teach Self-Regulation

Self-Control Bubbles | Love, Laughter and Learning in Prep!
If you want an excuse to get outside and enjoy some sunshine with your little ones, grab a couple of bottles of bubbles and give this self-control activity a try!

Musical Statues
I remember this being a favorite birthday party game when I was growing up, and recently learned it’s a fabulous game to teach kids the art of self-control. All you have to do is pump some good tunes, let your child dance off some energy, and periodically stop the music and yell ‘FREEZE!’ The idea is for your child to go from dancing to standing completely still in an instant, which isn’t an easy task for kids who struggle with self-control.

This game is equal parts hilarious and educational, and can be enjoyed in the classroom or as a family. Players take turns drawing number cards and must remember the growing sequence of numbers until a player pulls a ‘distraction card’. This person must then answer a silly question before reciting the sequence of numbers in the exact order they were drawn. It’s so much fun and a great therapy toy to help kids with challenges develop their cognitive skills in a non-threatening way.

Geared towards older kids, Blurt! is a fun game the whole family can participate in, but it’s also a great way to teach kids self-control. The premise behind the game is simple – one person reads a definition, and the person to blurt out the corresponding word first wins – and when you organize the game such that only 2 people are playing against one another at a time, it forces the rest of the family to exercise self-control as they refrain from yelling out the answer.

Kids Activities that Teach Communication Skills

Social Skills Board Games
This set contains six unique board games in one box, which are focused on helping kids learn about morals, manners, empathy, friendship, and emotions. It’s a great bundle to consider and the games are perfect for family game night!

Size of the Problem Activity Pack | Teachers Pay Teachers
The activities in this set help kids identify the size of their problems and the feelings they create, identify which reactions are/are not appropriate, and strategize possible solutions, making it a great way to engage in meaningful back-and-forth communication with your child while simultaneously teaching appropriate communication skills and responses.

Learning Resources Conversation Cubes
With 36 conversation starters to choose from, these Conversation Cubes offer a fun way for older kids to practice starting and maintaining conversations with others. You can practice at home, or set-up conversation groups within a classroom setting, allowing children the opportunity to practice how to initiate a conversation, and how to listen when others are speaking.

All About You Thumball
Whether you’re practicing social skills at home, or hosting a social group for your child, the All About You ball offers a great way to break the ice, teach kids appropriate social conversation starters, and get them talking.

Social Skills Challenge | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a fun classroom activity, but you can easily use it at home or in a therapy setting as well. The idea is to provide your child(ren) with a social challenge each day, and then have them reflect on how they felt while completing each activity. It’s an innovative way to get kids thinking about appropriate socialization throughout the day, and by offering your child a way to reflect on their feelings afterward, you will gain a greater understanding of how she perceives certain social settings and interactions.

Kids Activities that Teach Problem Solving Skills

Describing and Solving Problems | Teachers Pay Teachers
This is a great activity for kids who struggle to distinguish between big and small problems as well as appropriate reactions.

Scrabble is a great game for kids who struggle with planning and organization. As the game progresses, they must strategize and anticipate how they can build their own words off of those already played by others. This is also a great game for kids who struggle with spelling and/or vocabulary, and it gets them talking!

Also known as ‘Concentration’, there are many versions of the classic game Memory available for purchase to help develop a child’s focus and concentration skills. The idea is pretty easy and can be enjoyed with 2 or more players. Simply lie all of the tiles from the game facing downwards, and then take turns turning over 2 tiles at a time until you find a match. Children naturally build their working memory as they try to remember where specific cards are. We love our Despicable Me Memory Game, and I highly recommend Melissa & Doug’s Flip to Win Travel Memory Game as it can be played independently (or as a family) for on-the-go fun.

Problems in a Jar
Mosswood Connections is one of my favorite resources for ideas to help kids with developmental delays like autism and sensory processing disorder, and I recently found this Problems in a Jar activity on their site. It’s designed to help kids with executive function disorder learn how to define a problem, generate possible solutions, evaluate and select the best solution, and then implement the solution independently. It’s a great social skills activity to work through with your child at home.

Team Sports
Another great way to help a child develop her social skills is to sign her up for team sports she enjoys, like soccer or basketball. Organized activities such as these require kids to practice a whole range of social and problem-solving skills, like following directions, planning, strategizing, and even controlling their emotions in the event that they lose a game.

I’m new to this game, but so far I really like it. To play, you lay out your cards and then try to find as many matches as possible. The cards are transparent and have different colored hoops on them in different positions. Players must look for matches (aka ‘swishes’), and the player to find the most wins. Swishes are created when a player can line up 2 cards such that the hoops are identical when they are stacked one on top of another. Cards can be rotated in order to make a swish, requiring players to use a variety of executive functions. In addition to exercising their visual-spatial abilities, they must focus and concentrate, and work quickly to beat their opponent, making it a great interactive game for kids who struggle with socialization.

I hope this collection of teaching tips and social skills activities for kids with autism proves helpful to you. Remember to be a good role model, to practice patience and consistency, and to keep things FUN!


12 Popular Games Adapted for Children with Autism

Play is often described as the “work” of childhood, where children can make friendships, learn social skills, come to understand expected group behavior, consequences, turn taking, and cooperation, not to mention have some fun! Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can reap these same benefits by playing games with other kids, though many do not naturally gain the aforementioned skills simply by being exposed to games or other play objects, as might their non-disabled peers. As with many concepts, games and their component skills may need to be explicitly taught, supported, and adaptations made in order for a child with autism to experience success with the activity.

General Guidelines for Adapting Games for Children with Autism

While the type of adaptations used for a game will depend on the child’s individual needs and the game being played, some general guidelines may be applied to ensure a successful outcome with any social play situation.

  • It is wise to prepare the child as much as possible for what they will experience in a game.
  • The child should have a clear understanding of what they are being asked to do before beginning the game.
  • The child needs to have an opportunity to express any anxieties or ask questions (to the best of their ability) ahead of time.
  • The child should have opportunities for skill practice and understand the objective of the game before beginning game play with peers.

The following is a list of popular children’s games and adaptations that can be made to support children with autism to successfully play them. It should be noted that due to the wide range of traits with which children with ASD may present, these adaptations would not be appropriate for every child. Rather, these ideas may be used as starting points or ideas for parents and teachers alike that can be used to support children with ASD based on their individual needs and abilities.

Games and Adaptations for Children with Autism  


  1. Tag

Unlike board games or card games, which often require players to talk to one another throughout the game, physical games like tag can work well for children with ASD because there aren’t a lot of social interactions. However, the idea of being “it” can be a little abstract and children need to understand the objective and rules of the game, such as how to tag someone else, and staying within a certain area, in order to keep everyone safe. To make sure tag is enjoyable for all students, the following adaptations can be made:

Adaptations for Tag:

  • Playing tag inside a gymnasium or other enclosed space may be wise for children with autism who are known to run away.
  • If playing outside, preview the physical area in which the game will be played with the child ahead of time so they understand where the boundaries are.
  • Create a social story or visual aid to teach the rules of tag, including the idea of being “it”, and how the person who is “it” can change (for example, “There is one person who is it, that is the tagger”; “The person who is it wants to tag, or lightly touch, another player to make them it”; “If someone else tags you, you are it”).
  • Have the person who is “it” wear a special hat or some other visual marker so that everyone is clear on who is “it” at any given time as this can change often and quickly.
  • If necessary, provide scripted language or a communication board for the child to use to ask to join a game of tag or let someone know that they would rather not play.
  1. Hide and Seek

This timeless children’s game may be difficult for children with autism who like to run or hide as it can appear to encourage those potentially dangerous activities. However, because of the limited social interactions and gross motor skills used, it can be a good choice for kids with ASD. The following adaptations may be helpful for playing hide and seek:

Adaptations for Hide and Seek:

  • If the child is apt to run away, play the game in an enclosed area such as inside a house or in a fenced-in area. Care should be taken to ensure all children are aware of any boundaries that they need to stay within, both for safety and so all players know where they can and cannot hide.
  • Similarly, previewing the area for potential hiding places may also be beneficial. Pointing out places that are not safe to hide, such as a refrigerator, freezer, washer, dryer, oven, up a tree, in a drainage ditch, etc., might also be important for some children.
  • Provide the child with a social story or other visual support so they know what the sequence of events is throughout the game. For example, “You count to 15, I hide quietly, you look for me, and you find me. Then we switch.”
  • Waiting to be found may be difficult, so giving the child something to do while they wait, such as putty to squeeze, a favorite book to look at, or quiet toy to play with, may help.
  • Create a communication board or visual support to provide language models throughout the game. This may include numbers for counting and phrases such as, “You found me!” “I found you!” or “Come out, come out, wherever you are!”
  • Depending on the child, these skills may be best practiced in therapy sessions or 1:1 with an adult before having the child play with peers to ensure their safety.
  1. Basketball

Many children with autism have sensitivities to sound and other sensory inputs. Basketball, which is often played in a potentially loud or echo-prone gymnasium, naturally has many loud noises such as the bouncing of the ball, a referee’s whistle blowing, shoes squeaking on the floor, or other players yelling at one another that can cause stress and/or anxiety in a child with autism. While adjusting the volume of sound in a gymnasium may not be feasible, there are a few options for helping a child with ASD to be more comfortable in the environment.

Adaptations for Basketball:

  • Use headphones or other noise-reducing device. This can filter out much of the extraneous sound that accompanies a basketball game while still allowing the child to hear others who are talking to him/her, or sounds such as a whistle or timer that would indicate a change in action on the court.
  • Discuss ahead of time, that is, well in advance of a game, practice, gym class, or recess, when a particularly loud noise may be expected. For example, talking about how people will likely cheer or yell if a basket is made can potentially help the child to better regulate his/her response when this happens during a game. Explicitly teaching that the ball going through the hoop will result in loud noises can give the child a concrete cue to look for (ball in hoop) that may help them to anticipate when some loud noises may occur.
  1. Hopscotch

Hopscotch is a surprisingly complex game that supports children’s physical coordination, balance, and cognitive development. From working on midline development (hopping on one foot), body control (not stepping on the lines), muscle strength (leaping over the marker), to hand eye coordination (tossing the marker), and fine motor control (picking up the marker), this seemingly simple game can have a lot of benefits! However, these very skills can be challenging, and thus potentially frustrating, for some children with autism, and may dissuade them from playing. Adapting the game can help the frustration level and provide opportunities for social interactions and turn taking with peers.

Adaptations for Hopscotch:

  • Instead of just numbering the spaces on the board, use colors to differentiate them as well. This can act as another visual cue for discriminating between the different squares on the board and helping children know where to place their feet.
  • Focus on one skill at a time. For example, a child might practice tossing the marker in a square and picking it up again, walking to the appropriate square rather than hopping. Or if the child is practicing hopping, perhaps they don’t need to worry about hopping over the marker or staying in the lines; rather they just hop down and back. Still other children may simply be working on taking turns and will focus on waiting until their peers are done before they begin to play on the board.
  • The board can be used to reinforce other skills, such as number, color, or letter recognition by asking children to jump to the appropriate box as called out by a teacher or parent.
  1. Simon Says

Many children with ASD thrive with predictability and knowing what to expect. In this way Simon Says, in which one player is designated “Simon” and stands in front of the group, directing the others to perform various actions, may be challenging because no one except Simon knows what activity will be called out next. The apprehension a child may feel about not knowing what is coming next may prohibit him/her from paying attention to the language being used, (“Simon says jump” versus “Jump”,) and cause the child to be “out” before they truly have a chance to be successful.

Adaptations for Simon Says:

  • Limit the activities Simon can select, such as by giving Simon a list of actions from which to choose, and providing a visual aid to the child with autism listing these same actions. The actions could be provided in the order in which they will be used in the game, allowing the child with ASD to know exactly which movement will be coming next, or as a small list from which Simon can choose, narrowing down the options and giving the child with ASD (who has the same list) a better idea of what’s to come, even if they don’t know exactly what Simon will say.
  • Don’t use the “Simon says” rule (i.e., if Simon doesn’t say “Simon Says” and you do the action, you’re out) at all, and focus only the actions being performed. This removes the pressure of getting “out” and could be used as a means to practice desired behaviors such as sitting down, putting on a coat, waving, saying good morning, etc.


  1. Candy Land

As with many children’s board games, Candy Land is a fairly simple game to play, but there are sub-skills that may prohibit children with disabilities such as autism from being successful at playing it without explicit instruction. For example, it may be difficult for a child to remember his/her color game piece, how to follow the path from beginning to end, how to take turns, or how to understand when to move forward or backward on the board. Without these skills in place, game play with peers is likely to be frustrating for all involved. While these sub-skills are found in many games, some adaptations specific to how they might pertain to Candy Land are listed below:

Candy Land Adaptations

  • To minimize confusion as to which game marker each child is using, attach a small photo of each student to his/her marker. Similarly, the child could also wear a paper wristband of the same color as his/her game piece to remind him/her which marker is his/hers.
  • To familiarize the child with the path of the game, practice driving a toy car around the “maze” or put arrow stickers or post-it notes with arrows around the board to indicate directionality. Care should be taken to explain the “Shortcuts” (Mountain Pass and Rainbow Trail) so children understand when these paths would be taken and where they lead.
  • Keep track of whose turn it is by passing something physical around the table each time it is the next player’s turn. For example, a hat or necklace could be passed around and worn during each player’s turn, or a cup placed in front of each player and passed on.
  • After basic skills have been mastered, address “free move forward” and “penalty moves backwards” concepts.
  1. Chutes and Ladders

Chutes and Ladders is played on a very busy game board that can be confusing to look at. Keeping track of the direction in which to move game pieces, as well as understanding when to move “up” a ladder or go “down” a chute on the two-dimensional board can make for a frustrating game-play experience. Children in general may also struggle with the fact that this game is won and lost by chance, depending on the use of a spinner and the chutes and ladders that are landed on throughout the game. Children with autism in particular may struggle with knowing what to say to deal with feelings of frustration or anger throughout the game if they are not winning or in the lead. In order to make it easier to understand the visual stimuli within the game and focus on appropriate language to use with peers, the following adaptations may be helpful:

Chutes and Ladders Adaptations:

  • Define the word “chute”! This is probably not a familiar word to young children and using the word “slide” may make more sense to them.
  • Before the game begins, look at the board with the child with autism, pointing out where the chutes and ladders begin and end. Tracing the path of each with a finger may help make this more concrete. Putting arrow stickers or sticky notes on the board, such as green arrows going “up” a ladder or red arrows going “down”, a slide may also help keep things straight during game play.
  • Provide a script for language to be used during the game. Phrases such as, “I hope I get a ladder!” or, “Oh no, I landed on a slide!” may help the child process their own path through the game. Phrases such as, “That’s a long ladder, good job”, or “Oops, you got a slide”, may help the child know what to say to peers.
  1. Hi-Ho Cherry-O

Hi-Ho Cherry-O encourages players to work on their counting skills, including basic addition and subtraction, in order to fill their buckets with 10 cherries from their cherry tree. The game is played with a spinner and taking cherries off or putting them back on the tree as specified by the spinner. To aid children with autism in keeping track of the rules and encouraging language use, the following adaptations can be made:

Adaptations for Hi-Ho Cherry-O

  • Utilize a script that can provide the child with language to use during the game as well as a reminder of the rules. For example, “I got _____ (1, 2, 3, 4) so I can pick _____ (1, 2, 3, 4) cherry(ies).”
  • “I got the _____ (dog/bird). Put back 2 cherries”.
  • To encourage addition and subtraction skills, provide a number line from 1-10.


  1. Go Fish

This classic childhood game can be very abstract and confusing for children with autism. Not only does this game require that children be familiar with the concept of fishing, but also that they utilize language (“Do you have any 5s?”), memory (I need a 5 to make a match, I remember Jane asked for a 5 so Jane might be a good person to ask), and perspective-taking skills (Jane asked Anthony for a 5 so Jane probably has a 5), that can be difficult for a child with autism. In order to make this game more concrete, some adaptations can be made:

Go Fish Adaptations:

  • Begin by explaining the concept of fishing and how it applies to the card game being played. An explanation that may work could be that the cards in the pile are like fish in a pond, and the cards in the players’ hands are like fish on a fishing pole. The idea is to get all of the fish from the pond onto the players’ poles, and the winner is the person with the most matches.
  • If playing with a 52-card pack, or even if playing with a Go Fish-specific deck, limit the number of cards being used so there aren’t as many cards to handle.
  • Play with cards facing up so that everyone can see the cards the other players have, allowing the child with autism to focus less on perspective taking and more on using the appropriate language for the game and understanding how the game is played. (This strategy can be phased out as the child becomes more familiar with the game).
  • If cards are hidden from all players, give the child with autism (and the other players if desired), a pencil and paper so they can write down notes (e.g. Jane has a 5) throughout game play to aid with memory. Again, this allows for more focus on game play and having fun, rather than remembering which player has which cards.
  1. Old Maid

Old Maid does not require the same language, memory, or perspective-taking skills as other card games, so it can be a good game for children for whom these skills are a challenge. As the objective of the game is fairly simple: don’t end up with the Old Maid, this game can provide children with autism a good opportunity to practice their social skills with peers throughout game play.

Adaptations for Old Maid:

  • If playing with a 52-card pack, or even if playing with an Old Maid-specific deck, limit the number of cards being used so there aren’t as many cards to physically handle.
  • Use a cardholder so that children can focus on playing the game and not trying to keep all the cards in their hands at once.
  • Provide a script to help children know what to say throughout game play, with phrases such as, “Would you like to play/can I play?” “Your turn!” “I got a match!” “Good game!” “Oh darn, I have the Old Maid!” etc.
  1. Memory

As the name suggests, the game of Memory relies heavily on visual memory, which for some children with autism is a great strength. Other children will struggle, as spatial awareness and understanding the location of items as they relate to each other can be particularly challenging, let alone remembering an item’s location when it can’t directly be seen. In order to support children for whom visual memory is difficult, the following adaptations can be made:

Adaptations for Memory:

  • When first introducing the game, use only four cards (two matches), and gradually increasing the numbers of pairs as the child becomes familiar with the game.
  • Start with cards facing up in order for the child to practice making pairs and seeing cards in relation to one another. As they become more adept at this, turn some cards over so they can begin to focus on remembering where the pictures are, even when they can’t be seen.
  • Use a specialized deck of cards to play the game using a favorite subject, such as animals, pets, bugs and insects, etc.
  1. War

To play this classic card game, players need an understanding of the number concepts greater than and less than. To aid children with autism or others who might not have these concepts solidified, some adaptations can be made:

War Adaptations:

  • If using a 52-card deck, take out the face value cards (Jack, Queen, King, Ace) so that the players don’t have to remember the values of these cards and how they compare to the number cards.
  • Provide a number line with numbers from 2 – 10 to assist in determining which number is bigger.
  • When the child is ready, add the face value cards back to the deck and add them to the number line in appropriate sequence.


How Nutrition Impacts Children With Autism

There are no real answers to the question of what causes autism spectrum disorder (ASD). There are many theories and possibilities, however, ranging from the advent of processed foods to genetic mutations and metabolic disorders. One thing is certain, though: children with autism often suffer from nutritional deficiencies, which are brought on by behavioral or gastrointestinal issues.

Nutritional Hurdles

There are many reasons why a child on the autism spectrum might not get adequate nutrition, including sensitivity or aversion to specific colors, textures, or odors. A child within an aversion to the color green, for example, may resist green beans, lettuce, spinach, and other green or leafy fruits and vegetables. Likewise, a person on the autism spectrum may dislike the way that cold or wet foods feel inside their mouth.

Children with autism are also often very picky and may only have a small list of “acceptable” foods they will eat. Compounding selective eating habits is that children on the autism spectrum might demand that their food is prepared the same way each time. For example, an ASD child might expect mashed potatoes to be the same consistency each time the dish is served.

Just as concerning is the fact that children with autism tend to experience gastrointestinal complaints more often than their typical counterparts. Diarrhea, constipation, and heartburn are common among diagnosed children, and these issues are only worsened by poor nutrition.

A Change in Diet May Help

To be clear, it’s unlikely that diet causes autism, and changing a child’s diet is not a cure for the condition. However, that doesn’t mean that making alterations to what a child with autism eats is without benefits.

There is evidence to suggest that improved nutritional intake can treat symptoms of some co-occurring health conditions. In turn, providing relief for these issues may result in changed behavior. Cutting out casein, a protein found in milk and other dairy products, may help to reduce some discomfort in children sensitive to it. There is also evidence that suggests that sugar, corn, and some artificial ingredients can worsen some symptoms of autism.

Dietary Guidelines for Children

All children require a variety of foods to achieve optimal health. There are specific dietary recommendations for children between the ages of one and 18 years, and while the quantities vary slightly by age, most children should consume dairy, protein, fruits and vegetables, and grains each day.

Further, as with all children, parents are encouraged to reduce a child’s access to non-healthy fats, sugars, artificial flavorings, food dyes, and processed foods. A diet that centers around produce and lean proteins is almost always best.

Helping Your Autistic Child Eat Well

It’s not always easy to encourage a child with autism to break from their preferences or routine. However, there are a few tactics that might help. One is to engage in behavioral therapy by offering a reward for each new food the child tries. Be cautious, however, and do not provide a prize for each bite, or you risk spending your entire dinner time dealing in incentives.

Providing foods that are similar to ones the child already enjoys is another approach that can help open up an autistic child’s palate. For example, a child that likes chicken nuggets may also enjoy fish sticks. The key is to take it slowly and to graduate to new food choices as the child learns to accept different tastes and textures.

Another approach is to give the child some control at each meal by offering several options. While this might not be practical day after day, the occasional buffet-style meal will give your child some control over what they eat while providing the opportunity to try new and interesting foods.

Supplemental Sources

Even those children who are open to eating a variety of foods can suffer from nutritional deficits. Many experts recommend supplementing with vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, or multivitamins. Children with severe gastrointestinal disorders may also benefit from adding digestive enzymes and probiotics to their diet. This may relieve stomach pain, gas, and bloating, which can at the very least help the child feel more comfortable, which may reduce behavioral outbursts and improve concentration.

Elimination Diet

An elimination diet is simply the process of eliminating certain foods to help identify triggers of gastrointestinal distress. This process can take two to four weeks, and it may be combined with medical testing to confirm food allergies. Elimination is also one of the most effective ways to identify food sensitivities that can cause inflammation and other health problems.

If you are the parent of a child with autism, talk with their healthcare team before changing their diet. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that your child receives enough of the right kinds of foods to support their mental and physical health. Be realistic in your expectations, and remember that while there is no cure for autism, you can help improve other aspects of your child’s wellness through their diet.


How to Stop Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from Wandering

Parents of children with autism spectrum disorder are often struggling to manage their child’s wandering and whereabouts. Nearly half of children with autism spectrum disorder try to wander or run off, causing tremendous concern to parents and guardians. However, understanding and monitoring your child’s wandering can help put a stop to this behavior.

Acknowledging the severity of wandering, Center for Disease Control (CDC) recognized wandering as a medical diagnosis code in 2011. This official recognition helps parents obtain insurance for safety equipment that can track their child’s whereabouts, such as tracking devices, locks, alarms, as well as to allow their child access to an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) in a school setting.

In this blog, we will discuss

  • Why children with ASD tend to wander

  • How you can stop your child from wandering or running off

Why do children with ASD wander?

Most children are prone to wandering. Wandering is typically goal-oriented. When children find something interesting happening around them, they tend to leave their parents and wander off, which can potentially lead them to dangerous or life threatening situations. Children tend to be fascinated by certain environments. This can either be a water body or heights, or even a mall. As a parent, you need to be completely aware of these point of attractions, so you can be cautious when you take your child out.

A report by Kennedy Krieger Institute called, ‘Occurrence and Family Impact of Elopement in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders’ concludes that nearly half of children with ASD were reported to engage in elopement behavior, with a substantial number at risk for bodily harm. These results highlight the urgent need to develop interventions to reduce the risk of elopement, to support families coping with this issue and to train child care professionals, educators and first responders who are often involved when elopements occur.

Source: Occurrence and Family Impact of Elopement in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

10 ways to prevent children with ASD from Wandering

Security starts from home: Add more locks – protect your child from leaving the house. You cannot constantly keep an eye on your child, hence it is advisable to install affordable security systems or alarms to get your attention when someone leaves or enters the house.

Let friends and acquaintances know: Anybody who meets your child regularly needs to be made aware of the situation. Let your child’s teachers, neighbors, classmates, therapists etc. know that they need to be extra cautious when your child is with them.

Tracking devices to the rescue: There are a number of tracking devices in the market. Choose a suitable device that matches your child’s requirement and have her wear it every time she goes out.

Swim away from danger: It’s common for some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) to be drawn towards the water, which presents a danger of drowning. Provide swimming lessons for your child to avoid any unexpected dangers.

No time for anger, take plenty of time to explain:

Before you step out with your child, let him know what steps they will need to take in order to keep away from danger. Explain how they should behave and what you expect from them. When your child is going somewhere he shouldn’t, stop him gently and explain. If he still does not listen, distract him by taking him to another place.

Educate children on basic general knowledge: Make sure your children know about various aspects, environments or situations that can harm them. Educate your children on traffic rules and signals, teach them how to cross roads, etc.

Personal IDs: Use medical IDs for personal identification. These should include information about your child, address, and phone number. Create a few handouts if necessary – these handouts should contain your address and phone number.

Do not neglect factors that trigger wandering: In most cases, sensory overload can lead to wandering. Avoid places with excessive noise or crowds. Engage your child in conversation and fun activities, so they do not feel the need to wander.

Follow a strict sleep routine: In some children, poor sleep quality can be a cause for wandering. Plan a sleep schedule for your child and adhere to it strictly. Reduce the duration of daytime naps, or consider eliminating them altogether by sending them to recreational classes instead.

What methods have you applied to keep your child from wandering? Have they been successful? We would love to hear your stories. Do write to us in comments.


Top Safety Tips and Products for Kids With Autism

Every parent worries about their child’s safety. Parents of children with autism worry more, and for good reason. Children with autism are both more vulnerable and more likely to place themselves in harm’s way than typically developing kids of the same age. Fortunately, there are a number of steps parents can take to avoid risk and make it easier to address safety issues when they do come up.

Why Safety Is an Issue for Children With Autism

With autism can come a number of different safety risks. And being higher functioning doesn’t necessarily make a child safer. Here are some of the concerns autism parents may need to keep in mind, depending upon their individual child’s age, functional level, personality, and behaviors:

  • Wandering, or Elopement: Many children with autism, and quite a few adults (particularly those with more severe symptoms) tend to walk away from home or school. These individuals rarely have a specific direction in mind, and the motivating event may be hard to pin down. Some parents report that their child wanders or runs away on a regular basis. When this happens, of course, the child is vulnerable to accident, exposure, or even abuse.
  • Accidents and Falls: Some autistic children are much more likely than their typical peers to climb, squeeze into tiny spaces, throw heavy objects, play with dangerous materials, and otherwise put themselves into harm’s way.
  • Bullying and Abuse: While children with more severe autism can certainly be the victims of bullying, higher functioning children are also very vulnerable. Bullies tend to pick on people who have fewer friends, behave oddly, or are unable to defend themselves effectively. Children with autism often fit that bill.
  • Negative Encounters With Emergency Personnel and Police: Children and teens with autism can run into a range of problems when interacting with police and first responders. Lack of communication skills can lead to misunderstandings; sensory responses to alarms and sirens can set off negative behaviors; fear and anxiety can make children with autism less willing to respond appropriately to safety instructions.

Tips to Lower Safety Risks for Kids With Autism

In many cases, it’s possible to lower the risk of injury or other issues by putting simple changes in place at home, at school, and in the community. Here are a few low cost or free suggestions for worried parents:

  • For higher functioning children, clearly defined rules, social stories, visual reminders, and other educational techniques may stop dangerous behavior.
  • It can also be very helpful to observe your child’s behaviors and try to determine what events are most likely to trigger elopement or attract your child away from the safety of their home. If you can eliminate some of those triggers (i.e., loud noises, certain clothes), you can significantly reduce the problem.
  • When selecting and installing locks for doors and windows, imagine yourself in your child’s shoes. Could you reach and turn the bolt? Could you easily open and slip out the window? Choose locks, bolts, and window latches that are inaccessible for your child. Keep keys hidden.
  • If you have a pool, install a safety fence and perimeter alarm.
  • When furnishing your home, think about climbing and other safety issues. When your child was a toddler you probably “baby-proofed,” but now you may need to “child-proof” your home. Avoid open bookcases or, if you must have them, fasten them securely to the wall. Keep all dangerous items such as knives and matches safely locked or in cupboards too high to reach. If necessary, put latches on the oven.
  • Keep a close and careful eye on your child’s school experiences. As often as possible, pop in to see how things are going for your child (especially during unstructured times such as recess and lunch). Children with autism may not recognize or be able to describe bullying or put-downs, so it may be up to you and the teacher to ensure that your child is not a victim. Your child’s teacher may also be able to work with you on reducing wandering and other dangerous behaviors.
  • Be in touch with your community first responders and police before any issues arise. Provide first responders with photos of your child, information about behaviors and challenges, and suggestions for helping your child to remain calm. And, of course, provide emergency contact information.

Top Safety Products for Protect Kids With Autism

Once you’ve put all these measures in place, you may want to consider additional products that can help protect your child.

Locks and Latches 

If your child with autism is capable of opening a bolt, opening a lock, and you’ve tried both raising the locks and hiding the keys, now is the time to get creative. Two innovative locking devices come with high ratings:

  • Lockey Keyless Locks: These double-sided keyless locks use combination keypads that can be changed as needed. Choose from a deadbolt, level, or knob configuration.
  • Guardian Lock: The Guardian Lock is a patented device that can be used to lock doors that are not protected by existing bolts or locks. It’s an ideal way to keep your child safe when you’re visiting friends or family, in a hotel, etc.
  • Angel Guard: This unusual product covers your child’s seatbelt release, making it difficult for them to unbuckle themselves while in the car.


If your child is likely to wander into unsafe areas of the house or out the door, alarms can be a great way to signal danger. There is a wide range of options, including simple bells that ring when a door is opened and electronic alarms that use motion sensors:

  • Smart Caregiver Economy Wireless Monitor & Motion Sensor is just one of many systems available for alerting caregivers to an autistic family member’s wanderings.
  • GE Window and Door Chime is a less expensive option that responds when someone attempts to physically open a door or window.
  • Shop bells and jingle bells: For daytime use (or if you’re a very light sleeper), consider placing low-cost shop bells or strips of Christmas jingle bells over doors or windows.

Tracking Devices

Some people with autism elope, no matter how carefully parents and caregivers manage the environment. When that happens, safety depends on your ability to quickly and accurately track and find your loved one. Fortunately, there is a wide range of GPS tracking devices on the market at different price points. Be sure you choose one that will not be removed (ordinary wristbands, for example, may not be a good choice).

  • AMBER Alert GPS is both a two-way communication device and a GPS. It also issues an alert to a pre-selected group of people via email. Use a computer or mobile app to track your child and make use of custom safety tools.
  • Care Trak was originally designed to track people with dementia but is equally helpful for tracking people on the autism spectrum. It’s a favorite tool for police, fire departments, and other first responders who use it to locate individuals at risk.

ID Bracelets and Cards

If your child does wander and you can’t locate him immediately, bracelets and ID cards can help others to help you.

  • Alert Me Bands are adjustable and cannot be removed by the wearer. They’re a simple concept—a medical alert bracelet that contains a wealth of information about your child’s diagnosis, emergency contacts, allergies, etc.
  • Kheelz: Ice Card and Medical Alert ID System for Children is a unique way to be sure your child is carrying a card and medical alert with them. The card is carried in a special shoe insert; a special tag on the shoe alerts emergency personnel to the location of the card.
  • Kid Safe Child ID™ Card is a credit card sized item you carry in your wallet that contains photos and emergency information to share with anyone helping you to locate and care for your child.

A Word From Verywell

No matter which devices, locks, alarms, or systems you use to protect your child, there is no substitute for common sense. If your child is an eloper, is nonverbal, or is likely to engage in dangerous or inappropriate behavior, it’s up to you to manage your child’s environment and keep a vigilant watch. Naturally, no one can watch their child 24/7, but here are a few tips for avoiding emergencies:

  • If you are outside of your safety zone (home or school, for most people), be sure one person is assigned the job of keeping an eye on your autistic child. This is especially critical in distracting situations with lots of opportunities for wandering and getting into trouble. Beaches, amusement parks, and parking lots are all particularly dangerous.
  • If you are really worried about losing track of your child in a new location, consider using a toddler “leash” or just holding hands to avoid the possibility of a disaster.
  • Don’t allow embarrassment to put your child in jeopardy. Yes, it feels weird to set up an alarm outside your child’s room when you’re visiting family—but if the alternative is a lost child, you may need to swallow your pride.
  • Talk to your neighbors. The more your neighbors know about your child the better they’ll understand him, and the more comfortable they’ll feel giving you a call if they notice your child out and about at an odd time of day. Neighbors can also be enlisted, if your child goes missing.
  • Give your child plenty of practice in being found. Most autistic children are more comfortable with people and activities they know well. If your child has an ID bracelet, have him practice showing the bracelet to neighbors and family members. Introduce your child to police officers and other first responders. Teach your child basic phrases (“I’m lost,” for example) or have him practice showing a personal ID card to a stranger.

No system is perfect, and accidents happen to the best of us. But you can radically increase your child’s safety by taking action before problems arise.


Creating the Ultimate Sensory Room for Your Toddler

A sensory room is essentially a space where a young child with or without learning disabilities can go to experience calming sensations. They can be customized for any need, budget, and available space. Although most closely associated as a tool for children on the autism spectrum, sensory rooms, which first gained national attention in the 1970s, can benefit everyone in your family.

Here, we will take a look at how to create a sensory room for a toddler that is safe, calming, and engaging.


Before you can make any decisions on what will go into your sensory room, you’ll need to ensure that you have an appropriate space for it. Ideally, you’ll have a room in a quiet location in your home that you can dedicate to your little one’s development. If you do not have an extra bedroom or office space, even a large walk-in closet will work.

When you do not have a completely quiet space, you can reduce unwanted distractions by using sound insulation in the sensory room. This could be something as simple as covering the walls with thick blankets, or adding sound-absorbing panels or soundproof wallpaper.

Color and lighting

Color and lighting each play a significant role in the overall feel of a sensory room. It’s best to avoid overwhelming colors, such as red, orange, or neon shades. Many mental health experts assert that cool colors, or those on the blue and green spectrum, help create a calming atmosphere. Pale blue, for example, is a great choice when trying to create a relaxing and soothing environment. Light gray and eggshell are also viable options for a sensory experience, particularly when you plan to include a projector and other light-based features.

When choosing lighting for your room, avoid fluorescent bulbs, as this type of light is not only harsh and distracting, but the fixtures also emit an audible buzzing noise, which can be very distracting for young children. Instead, look for fiber optic lights, LED light strips, or glow panels. Each of these may be set to fade in and out of different colors or remain steadily set to a single color temperature.

Tactile features

All sensory rooms should include assorted tactile features. Our tactile senses are essentially how we experience the world through touching and feeling. Toddlers often enjoy tactile centers that allow them to touch and manipulate things like sand, beans, or plastic beads. Something as simple and inexpensive as a bin of each can give your child an opportunity to receive sensory input through an open-play situation. When dealing with a very young child, make sure that there is plenty of room for you to sit nearby to ensure they do not inadvertently put small items in their mouth.

Physical activity

While your sensory space is an area where your child can go to decompress, it should also offer opportunities for safe physical activity. Toddlers especially are tiny bundles of energy that like to run, jump, and crash into everything in sight. They do this in part to develop their tactile senses. However, having an opportunity to do this without being told to calm down is an important part of their physical development.

For your sensory room, consider making or purchasing a crash pad, which is simply a large pillow that your youngster is free to use how they see fit. You can build your own crash pad out of a duvet cover and bed pillows. You can also use a large beanbag chair or buy a pre-made crash pad, which you can usually find through companies that specialize in making products for children with sensory processing disorders. Free movement will help your child develop their gross motor skills and also enhance vestibular system development.

Motion swings

While not an absolute requirement, adding a motion swing that hangs from the doorway or ceiling to your child’s sensory room does have value, because the sensation of a back-and-forth motion can help soothe the nervous system. Pay careful attention to invest in a product that is appropriate in size for your child.


Because scent is a powerful thing, you can incorporate aromatherapy into your child’s sensory room to further indulge their sense of calmness. Lavender is an excellent scent to help reduce anxiety, but you might need to try several different fragrances before you find one that works best for your little one. Remember, though, that toddlers are quick and curious. If you turn your back for just a moment, they may be tempted to ingest the source of the appealing odor, and even a small amount of essential oils may be toxic. Consult with their pediatrician first, and look for ways to reduce their direct exposure to any type of chemical, natural or not.

The benefits of the sensory room for children cannot be underscored enough. These are safe spaces where typical children and those with special needs can go to relax, decompress, and regain their focus. Toddlers can benefit in an array of ways, including controlled stimulation, having a chance to develop and improve their motor skills, and boosting their cognitive development. Further, sending your child to their sensory space when they need to evaluate their behavior is a much better option than sticking them in the corner. Here, they can work through their emotions in a way that makes the most sense to their developing brain.


How to Explain Autism to Children

Big Bird was confused. The new, orange-haired girl playing on Sesame Street seemed like she didn’t want to talk to him or give him a high five. He was worried that she didn’t like him.

Of course, what the parents watching likely already knew was that the character Julia, who was introduced last year, has autism, as explained in kid-friendly language by cast member Alan: “She has autism. … For Julia, it means that she might not answer you right away, and she may not do what you expect.” Whether you’re talking to a giant yellow bird or a typical elementary-aged kid, it can be difficult to explain autism simply and succinctly.

“Trying to explain autism spectrum disorders to anyone – children or adults – is tricky because it’s complicated,” says Dr. Sandy Burkhardt, a child psychologist with Indy-based Children’s Resource Group. “I say, if we can’t make it simple, let’s at least try to make it clear.”

That, experts say, means using age-appropriate language, not shaming children for asking questions and focusing on the importance of manners.

Keep it simple

Save the technical jargon for the doctors. Instead, if your child asks about a classmate or cousin’s behavior, or if they’ve heard the word autism and want to know what that means, aim for language that’s developmentally appropriate.

“For a school-aged child, you could say, ‘He has autism. It’s not something you can catch; it is something that some people are born with. Autism affects how the brain works and can make it difficult for some people to talk, understand others, make friends or calm themselves down when they feel worried or stressed,’” says Kelly Ernsperger, a social worker and owner of Autism Counseling & Behavior Consultation on Indy’s northeast side. “For an even younger child, you might simply address their specific question: ‘Timmy flaps his hands because he was born with autism. When he is excited or stressed, he sometimes flaps his hands to help calm himself down,’” she says.

What you don’t want to do is to treat autism like a taboo subject that you simply don’t discuss, leading kids to draw their own – probably inaccurate – conclusions. It’s also important not to chide kids for asking you honest questions.

Focus on manners

That’s where the emphasis on manners comes in, Burkhardt says. “If your child comes home and says, ‘Billy acts weird,’ you can validate their observations by saying, ‘Yes, it’s too bad that Billy had a meltdown because he didn’t like how the ketchup was on his hotdog,’ and you can instruct about the noted differences, saying, ‘Some people have big reactions to minor things,’” she says. “Then you can reiterate your family’s beliefs – ‘Our family is patient, our family is kind, our family believes that everyone is different.”

The goal, of course, is to promote empathy and to create the expectation that children will be understanding with those whose behavior might confuse them. “It’s important to teach compassion. Teach kids that rather than staring or judging, if they see a behavior that is different, to discuss their questions or concerns with a trusted adult,” Ernsperger says. “Parents can emphasize that the child isn’t acting that way because they’re naughty or bad; they’re just trying to manage something that’s hard for them.”

Find resources

If you find yourself needing some guidance when talking to your child about autism, consider reaching for a book. There are many picture books that take on the topic in a way that’s easy to understand for kids (see sidebar). Just make sure to pick a story that mirrors your child’s experience – for example, reading a book about a child on the spectrum who doesn’t talk and does a lot of hand flapping may not hit home if the child with autism in your kid’s class is very verbal and social.

When it comes to talking about autism with kids, parents should keep it simple, encourage discussion and focus on their family’s values. Paula Butler, a Fishers mom of three, including an 8-year-old son with autism, sums it up nicely: “I hope parents of neurotypical kids explain autism with grace so that when the children of today come across someone who is different from them, they treat them with kindness and the respect they deserve. I also hope kids take the opportunity to get to know someone with autism because our kids are amazing!”

Books to help explain autism to your child

Something’s Different About Andrew, Written and illustrated by Kyndal Gary, a senior at Columbus East High School

Ethan’s Story; My Life with Autism. Written by Ethan Rice, Illustrated by Crystal Ord

Leah’s Voice, Written by Lori Demonia, Illustrated by Monique Turchan

Looking After Louis, Written by Lesley Ely, Illustrated by Polly Dunbar

My Brother Charlie, Written by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete, Illustrated by Shane Evans

My Friend Has Autism, Written by Amanda Doering Tourville, Illustrated by Kristin Sorra

Taking Autism to School, Written by Andreanna Edwards, Illustrated by Tom Dineen

My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation STL Today

Child care centers adapt to aid frontline workers battling virus spread – STL Today

A number of child care centers in the St. Louis region are tailoring their staffing and hours to meet the needs of first responders, medical staff and other essential workers who are on the front lines of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

One such worker, Emily Kemp, is a nurse at Barnes-Jewish Hospital who said there’s a “heightened sense of heaviness” as she wears protective gear at work. Sometimes the patients she’s helped need to be tested for the virus.

“It’s a little scary,” she said.

Kemp’s usual day care at the Mid-County Family YMCA in Brentwood closed for several days to clean, she said, leaving Kemp’s husband to care for their two young children while also working from home as an engineer. But then the YMCA reopened to care for the children of first responders and other essential employees.

“We are able to meet the needs of the community and can stop and pivot to meet those needs as they arise,” Gateway Regional YMCA Vice President of Childcare Services Laurie McTearnen said. “We want the opportunity to truly support all those families of essential personnel who support all of us when they go to work every day. We want them to feel good that their children are in a safe, fun, high-quality environment so they don’t have to worry.”

Mary Margaret Daycare and Learning Center is offering child care services at four county locations as well as at the Children’s Learning Center in High Ridge, and offering child care to only medical workers and first responders at its location at 3800 Watson Road in south St. Louis. The center has extended its care hours from 6:30 a.m. to midnight.

Carmi Dudash, director of Mary Margaret Daycare, said despite publicizing the center’s services, attendance has been low so far and administrators decided to close four centers. Staff are taking children’s temperatures at the door and doing extra cleaning, she said.

“I think people are just kind of leaning in the opposite direction,” Dudash said. “They’re fearful of going anywhere, so if they have the option to keep their children at home with their spouses or other family, I think they’re choosing that.”

We Rock the Spectrum in north St. Louis County is offering free child care, but it only has eight open slots for children. It isn’t licensed as a child care facility, but it tells parents to pack their own meal, snacks and water for their child, and has a child-staff ratio of 4 to 1, owner Celeste Brown said.

The free program is funded by We Rock the Spectrum’s nonprofit arm, My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation. They don’t take temperatures, but they do monitor the children for sickness and do extra cleanings, Brown said. It’s important to be available for parents who have to work during the pandemic, she said.

“Some of them have no choice but to go into work,” Brown said. “They’re keeping people alive, they’re working very hard, and as a parent I know how stressful it can be when thinking about your own child.”

“I was feeling very torn between family and having to go to the hospital every day,” Kemp said. “When I was told they could go back to the YMCA, it was a huge weight off my shoulders as a mom and as a nurse practitioner … I’m worried about work, and I’m worried about home, and obviously I’m worried about this virus. But I don’t have to worry about (my children) being there.”

The YMCA is extending child care services at nine locations, offering early child care and school-aged care up to age 12. It’s offering sliding scale fees for families who are struggling financially.

The criteria for eligible families depends on the location of the center — in St. Louis, that only extends to first responders, doctors and other health care workers. But in the surrounding area, it can extend to others whose work is deemed essential.

Read original feature.

My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Herald Sun Australia

Autism groups helping with COVID-19 anxiety – Herald Sun Australia

Families everywhere are facing huge adjustments to daily life as a result of COVID-19.

But for children with autism, the uncertainty caused by school shutdowns and coronavirus fears presents unique challenges.

We’ve compiled expert information on how to talk about coronavirus with kids with autism, where you can get NDIS advice and the all-abilities gym offering free respite for the children of essential services workers.

Amaze chief executive Fiona Sharkie said between 40-70 per cent of people on the spectrum experienced significant anxiety, which could be exacerbated by shutdowns, a loss of routine, and seeing others distressed about COVID-19.

“It is a very confusing and uncertain time and with schools and workplaces shutting down, that can make it very difficult for people with autism to cope,” she said.

Confusion about whether you could access special supermarket shopping hours, potential stock shortages of favourite foods and seeing people wearing – or you being forced to wear – PPE masks could also be distressing.

Ms Sharkie said Amaze was in regular contact with the National Disability Insurance Agency to be able to advise people how their funding could be used at this time.

“We know some people have funding for transport to school or things like that, so we’re seeking the best advice about whether that can be used for home equipment,” she said.

“We are building a bank of information based on what people are asking us.

“It is a challenging time but we are pulling together resources to support people the best way we can.”

She advised anyone with questions to contact the Amaze Autism Advisor service on 1300 308 699 (weekdays 8am-7pm), email at or web chat at

The NDIS website is also regularly updating with coronavirus information and support.

Sue Larkey, an expert in special education, advised using social scripts when explaining the coronavirus to children with autism.

“The advantage of social scripts is the children can refer back to them many times to boost understanding,” she said.

“Social scripts can also tell students what they can do by providing alternative situations.”

You can find out more about social scripts and Ms Larkey’s work here.

Autism Family Support Association secretary Amanda Golding said one of the greatest challenges was managing the uncertainty.

To tackle this she planned a schedule for her adult son – walks to the lake, DVDs to watch, a new jigsaw puzzle – the night before.

We Rock the Spectrum (WRTS) co-owner Sally Johnson said the all-abilities gym remained open for the time being.

Families can privately hire the Preston indoor playground, which is sanitised after every visit and has strict entry requirements, for a discounted $100 an hour to help children meet their sensory needs.

Ms Johnson said families accessing NDIS funds could contact WRTS to see if they could use the funding for private hire sessions.

While they had been forced to significantly reduce their school holiday respite program for public health reasons, Ms Johnson said they were looking at how they could offer families respite if schools remained closed after the break.

The organisation’s charity partner My Brother Rocks the Spectrum is sponsoring free care and drop-off services at We Rock the Spectrum for the children of people working in essential services such as healthcare, supermarket workers and emergency services crews.

Read the original feature.

My Brother Rocks the Spectrum WSPA News 7

Businesses offer free childcare for essential employees – WSPA News 7

SIMPSONVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Many essential workers have been putting their own safety on the line to curb the pandemic, and one Upstate group will now be offering those workers free childcare.

We Rock the Spectrum gym in Simpsonville is typically open to families with children with special needs. Now it is opening its doors for free childcare for essential workers who cannot work from home.

Essential workers, such as medical personnel, first responders, grocery store workers and more, can call to schedule a time for their children to be at the gym. Organizers said they have the ability to take children with special sensory needs as well.

Organizers said this is being made possible because of their nonprofit, My Brother Rocks the Spectrum organization.

Workers at the gym have been cleaning and taking advice from health professionals to assure a clean environment. They will also make sure only small groups of children play together at a time, organizers said.

To make a reservation, call (864) 243-8419, message on Facebook or email

The YMCA in downtown Spartanburg Thomas E. Hannah and Middle Tyger YMCAs have been offering childcare options as well.

For more information, contact the location’s member service desk. Spartanburg branch hours for desk is Monday – Thursday 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday 7 a.m. – noon, Saturday 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. The facilities will be closed on Sundays.

YMCA branches in Anderson and Greenville are NOT offering this service at this time.

Read the original feature.

MBRTS COVID-19 Corporate Announcement Flyer

A Letter from We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym Corporate about COVID-19

As the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, many valuable child-care services are becoming limited and/or temporarily unavailable. My Brother Rocks the Spectrum Foundation (MBRTS), the non-profit organization for the franchise We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym Worldwide, is taking action to ensure that all healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery store workers and essential emergency personnel still required to go to work to help fight this pandemic are receiving the support and services they need.

Effective immediately, MBRTS will be sponsoring free Break Time Care/Drop-Off services at all We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym Worldwide locations.

We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym would like to thank all of the healthcare professionals, first responders, grocery store workers, and essential emergency personnel out there in the world risking their own lives to save others. Here is the link to our locations page so you can find your nearest gym to assist you during this difficult time:

Our gyms are a safe haven of inclusion for so many, and will continue to provide a place of refuge for ALL children in this trying time. We have implemented safety precautions using companies that use electrostatic spray, a safe and highly effective spray that kills 99.9% of germs. We continue to monitor and follow the CDC guidelines for the safety of every child that walks through our doors. Please call ahead to reserve your space, as we will be operating with low capacity limits at this time.

Dina Kimmel
Founder and CEO
We Rock the Spectrum Kid’s Gym Worldwide

My Brother Rocks the Spectrum KSDK

Businesses and organizations in the St. Louis region step up to help families during COVID-19 – KSDK

ST. LOUIS — With all of these schools closing, organizations and businesses are coming up with ways to help families during this time.

Jennifer Range is the owner of We Rock The Spectrum in Edwardsville.

“Our mission is to always reach out to those families that most need us,” she said.

The franchise company is a fully inclusive sensory gym and they’re planning to have a free break time/drop-off service for doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals working tirelessly on the front line of COVID-19.

“Go sleep or run errands and with schools out, there isn’t much of a break for parents, not only working 12-hour shifts, but helping those kids with school,” Range says.

Range’s son has autism and she knew a place like this was needed. But now, more than ever, she knows the need of her play place.

She said the Fenton, Edwardsville, and St. Ann locations are doing this.

“All this play helps definitely with maintaining the calm. We want to be that calm in the midst of the storm.” Range says passionately.

Before you come in, you do need to call ahead. She has to follow CDC regulations and only have about 10 to 12 children there.

Erin Kelley, the Executive Director of Step Up STL also wants to lift up the stress.

“With kids home or parents that are financially vulnerable and have their hours cut, we want to make sure we’re able to meet those needs,” Kelley told 5 On Your Side.

That’s why she’s working with school districts in the St. Louis region.

“We’re activating parent groups and hosting drives and we will put together kits with whatever the needs are. We need personal care items, household cleaning items, food,” Kelley says.

In 24 hours, they’ve collected $2,300 and received all these donations.

It just shows, when times get hard, there are people who remind us, our community will work harder.

“St. Louis is enormously generous,” she said. “People come out of the woodwork and do anything, especially for our kids.”

Next weekend, Step Up STL said it will be packing kits and distributing them to families. Depending on how the school wants to handle it, they’ll drop it off at home or give them to counselors for the handoff.

If you’d like to donate, you can call Kelley at 314-471-3444 or head over to their Facebook page. Step Up said you can drop off donations at Mungenast St. Louis Honda.

Read the original feature.