SLPs: Board Games Are a Winner for Autism Speech Language Therapy
Play is the language of childhood, which is why if you ever watch an autism speech-language therapy session, you may not even realize the speech therapist (or the child) is actually “working!”
One of our favorite tools? Board games!
Board games can be a great “communication temptation,” meaning it motivates kids to engage. It can also be an excellent tool for teaching key life skills, especially for older kids, teens and adults.
Our Brecksville speech therapists will even oversee group board game sessions to improve key skills like:
- Maintaining eye contact.
- Improving Communication
- Self-regulation of emotions
- Better understanding others’ emotions
Anytime one of our autism speech-language therapy sessions are in an open space and there is a board game involved, it’s not uncommon other kids gravitate.
Board games are great for managing basic social interactions and bonding, sometimes bridging the ability gap between siblings, classmates or other peers. We encourage family board game nights as a way for parents to help work on carryover of key ongoing goals for speech, expressive-receptive language, sensory integration, fine motor skills and more.
Board Games are Better Than Screens
Although a lot of kids (and grownups too) turn their love of gaming into digital gaming, that often defeats the purpose of SPL, OT, ABA and physical therapy goals for these kids. It’s too often solitary, allows perseverations to go unchecked and often leads to problems with poor attention span and even behaviors.
Some virtual games can be enjoyed on a limited, moderated basis – but board games are MUCH more preferable from a speech therapist and child development standpoint.
Consider that a recent study by Peer-J, The Journal of Life and Environmental Sciences, revealed individuals with autism may be more prone to pathological use of video game and digital device use.
Board games played face-to-face inherently encourage more functional social interactions. In fact, speech-language pathologists at the University of Michigan utilized the board game interest among teens with autism and organized a regular board game group session, focused on sharpening their social skills.
Therapy Benefits of Board Games
The exact benefits of a board game really depend on what it is and the child or teen’s individual therapy goals.
In general, top therapy board game benefits are:
- Promotion of social interaction. Board games require participants to communicate with other players.
- Practice following directions. A critical skill in so many settings, and board games are a fun way to practice this.
- Turn-taking. Key to socializing is turn-taking, which builds patience.
- Rule predictability. This is often a comfort to many on the autism spectrum.
- Inclusion. All members of the group can participate. It teaches older/higher-functioning/typically-developing kids more patience and understanding too.
- Fine motor skill practice. Players are required to move game pieces, be aware of other players’ pieces, draw cards, spin wheels, write scores – all of it helps with fine motor skills.
- Use of language skills. The game “Guess Who” is a good example. Players ask and answer yes-no questions to determine the identity of the other person’s player.
- Overcoming big emotions and conflicts. We all know it’s, “just a game,” but winning and losing can FEEL like a very big deal to a kid. Working through some of the tougher emotions especially is important.
Some of the games we love at Therapy and Wellness Connection include: (depending on the child’s age and abilities) are:
- Chutes and ladders
What’s your family’s favorite?
Therapy & Wellness Connection – your connection to a life without limitations – is a pediatric therapy center providing speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy and ABA therapy to children with special needs in Northeast Ohio. We also offer summer camp, day programs, education services, vocational counseling and more. Call us at (330) 748-4807 or send us an email. Serving Brecksville, Akron, Cleveland and surrounding communities in Northeast Ohio.
More Blog Entries:
Children “Thrive” at Inclusive Brecksville Summer Camp, April 13, 2019, Brecksville Autism Speech Therapy Blog