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Autism and Symbolic Play

Updated: Jun 25, 2023

Play is important for children’s development as it helps them to develop their social skills, express their concerns and feelings, learn and relax.

Flora, as well as many children with Autism Spectrum Condition find it difficult to play spontaneously and usually play in a ritualistic and repetitive way.

That is why it is important to plan activities that teach children how to use objects in a more symbolic way.

In a previous post we have talked about the importance of group/social games (see here) and how we can organize a relevant activity (see here).

How can we plan an activity that helps Flora develop her playing skills, but also teaches her to play more spontaneously?

This week we have planned an activity with animal toys that encourages symbolic play .

1.Sensory resources: In the early stages of developing skills for symbolic play, it is important to use sensory resources. This way, the learner participates in the activity using all their senses.

In this week's activity, we have hidden small animal toys in materials with different textures, such as lentils, rice and beans.

2.Objects - vocabulary: As in all our activities, it is important to show and name the objects we will use along with the matching symbols. In this way, the student learns and consolidates the new vocabulary.

For this activity, we will need the symbols of the animals and the movements we want the animals to make.

3.Demonstration: The student may have difficulty understanding what to do so it is important for the adult to demonstrate the activity.

4.Guided play: Now it is the student's turn. We show them the symbol with the animal, ask them to find it and then ask them to make the animal do the movement.

For example:

Find the frog

The frog jumps

It is crucial to mention that we need to make it fun and share enjoyment with the students. It is important to give the child time to explore the objects and not to put pressure on them to follow the steps at a certain time or in a certain way.

5.Free play: After completing the activity we need to give the child time to play and interact with the objects freely.

It is important at this stage that we actively interact and play with the student. In this way, we gradually build up the importance of playing and interacting with others.

More information about this week's activity can be found here.


We will share more tips and activities in the future, so keep visiting us.

We are looking forward to hearing your views and experiences.

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