4 Tips for Including Children on the Autism Spectrum on Playdates

April is Autism Awareness Month, a month in which we take the time to promote inclusion and acceptance of all those who are neurodiverse. For children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), that means being included in playdates and other childhood social interactions.

Setting up a playdate between a child on the autism spectrum and a neurotypical child  will have immense benefits for all involved. For the child with ASD, this is a great opportunity to practice communication skills, social skills, and play skills in a safe environment. For the other child, it teaches compassion, acceptance, and the enhanced ability to connect on common interests.

Of course, for both parties, setting up a playdate may be intimidating. Use these 4 tips to make the time go more smoothly, and remember, no playdate between any children is ever perfect.

Prepare Your Child

Children love routine and to know exactly what’s going to happen. Prior to the playdate, review any planned activities and even spend time practicing them. Explain what you know about the other child, perhaps any interests or any potential difficulties (i.e. taking turns, conversing). Discuss strategies that might promote play with the other child.

For a child on the autism spectrum, role playing possible scenarios will help communication skills during the playdate. In addition, social stories and visual schedules are often beneficial.

Focus on their Common Interests

Just like adults, finding a common interest promotes a stronger and easier bond. With the other parent, discuss any shared interests. Then, plan an activity both children will enjoy based on that interest. Organized and structured activities will enable more communication and build social skills, while also making play more accessible for both children.

Keep the First One Short

As parents, we often overestimate how long children will feel comfortable in one location or doing one activity. If this is a first playdate between two children, set a maximum time of 30 minutes to an hour. As the relationship builds, you will be able to add time. You want the playdate to be long enough to allow for some bonding, but short enough to end on a positive note where neither child ends up overstimulated or overwhelmed.

Ask the Parent Questions

If you are preparing for a playdate with a child on the autism spectrum, be sure to approach the parent with any questions you might have. 

Parents of children with any special needs are accustomed to answering questions and sharing information that will help their child succeed in any environment.  In addition, the parent wants you to understand their child better and will love the interest you show in getting to know them. 

After that conversation, discuss with your child any pertinent information they should know prior to the playdate. 

And if it still doesn’t go as well as planned? Don’t worry! You have still given both children a wonderful experience that has benefitted them socially.

Springtide Child Development Center

For more information on how to improve social skills with a child diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, reach out on our website, email us at hello@myspringtide.com, or give us a call at 888-260-1609.

Reach out today and speak with one of our enrollment specialists to get started with Springtide

Springtide Child Development was awarded an Award of Distinction with The Behavioral Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE) and is a member of The Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP). These awards celebrate exceptional special needs providers that are leading the way in the areas of clinical quality, staff satisfaction, qualifications, and consumer satisfaction.
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