WINNING & LOSING Why are games so tough for children and young people with Autism?
• Games are often played in an environment that is difficult for me to manage. If I am outside the light can be challenging, the noise level is often louder. If I am in a hall the acoustics are different and sometimes there is a strange smell, along with lots of transitional movement.
• I am not in control of the outcome of a game which means it is unpredictable for me, and this makes me feel anxious.
• There are often lots of verbal instructions given to explain games. My processing speed of verbal information means that I can’t process that level of information as quickly as I need to in order to join in successfully.
• I find it hard to sequence instructions and actions correctly, unless they are represented visually.
• I find it hard to generalise skills between places, which means that I don’t know what the expectations, rules or boundaries are unless you explicitly teach me beforehand.
• My sensory needs mean that my gross and fine motor skills may not be at the same level as peers of my age. I may also throw or kick far too hard, or too softly due to my proprioceptive regulation. I might accidentally run into somebody or maybe feel like I’m being pushed around. This can make me lack confidence and not want to play.
• My executive functioning needs mean that I find motor planning and co-ordination a challenge. This means I may find it physically difficult to join in unless supported.
• I find team work a challenge because I struggle to understand the social expectations and goals of my peers.
• My rigid thinking means that if I have lost a game once I think I am going to lose every time. This is the same if I win a game - if I then go on to lose another time I cannot manage this as it is unexpected for me.
Games can be supported by pre-teaching, preparation, social stories or comic-strip conversations, visual supports, clear and explicit instructions, small groups and an element of control.