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Autism Play Therapy Games for Learning the Alphabet


Learning the alphabet is the first step on the road to good literacy. Children with autism sometimes have trouble learning the alphabet as early as their peers. Play therapy games for autistic children are a great way to increase social communication. They’re also a great way to learn things like the alphabet and arithmetic. We’ve assembled a short list of play therapy games you can use to get those ABCs working for your autistic child.

Say It For Them

Many autistic children are nonverbal for longer than other kids. That can make traditional methods of teaching the alphabet less effective. Play therapy games should engage your child on their own terms, instead of demanding that they conform to yours. Learning the alphabet can be made into the same sort of game.

By observing your child closely, you can come up with an effective way to determine that they’ve “got it.” There’s no need to wait for them to say the alphabet. If they can signal that they understand what the letters mean, you’ll know you can keep going.

Reading aloud to your children is still the most effective way to get them interested in learning. The alphabet is no exception. Read books that teach the alphabet, and let your autistic child point, or clap, or make a noise, or any other signal they choose when they hear the right sound. Props are great for these play therapy games. Give them a toy musical instrument like a drum or tambourine and they’ll have a blast while they learn their letters.

Let Your Fingers Do the Talking

When reading aloud, be sure to trace your fingers under the words as you read. If your child responds better to visual cues than audio prompts, they’ll quickly catch on and follow along that way instead. You can easily make a game of following the finger. Designate one letter as today’s prize. When your finger hits the letter, your child signals you and gets a point. Offer a little prize for a high score.

After your child is accustomed to the finger pointing game, have them trace their finger under the words as you read. When the words and pointing line up, you’ll know they’re really getting it.

Sing It

All children like to have fun while they learn. Singing the alphabet is a great example of a universal play therapy game. Unfortunately, as we become older, we lose a bit of our appetite for fun and games. That can hamper your efforts to teach your autistic child the alphabet. Release your inner child and sing the alphabet with gusto. If you’re having fun, it’s much more likely that your child will join in. Sing it!

Turn the Page

Nonverbal children surprise their parents when they start talking. It’s only then that parents realize that they’ve been following along with everything. They just haven’t been able to speak about it yet. Give your autistic child every chance to show progress with learning the alphabet. One method to judge literacy is to assign the page turning responsibilities to your child. Read aloud to your child, but let them turn the pages as you go. Children love it when their parents read to them, and they’ll be eager to turn the page to keep the fun rolling.

Matching Games

Play therapy games work for all kinds of learning, including learning the alphabet. Matching games are especially good for learning the relationship between upper and lowercase letters.  Purchase inexpensive flash cards, and make a game of matching a capital letter to its lower case version, and vice versa.

The Alphabet When Out and About

Letters are symbols. When letters are combined, they produce more complex symbols. The earlier your child get the connection between symbols and their meaning, the faster they’ll pick up more advanced concepts.

A simple trip to the store will offer dozens of opportunities to show and tell what letters mean. If you see the four letters on a STOP sign,  say, “S. T. O. P. means stop!,” and then apply the brakes. Your child will quickly associate the meaning of the letters with the word, and the word to the action. You can even make into a fun game:  “R. E. D. spells red and there’s a red car,” is a great way to pass the time when you’re doing errands.

Play Therapy Games on the Fly

There’s no need to consult a big book for play therapy games for every occasion. It’s easy to turn almost anything into a game for a child. It’s only necessary to stop and think a minute about how to turn a lesson into a lark. It will be worth it for your child’s development, even if it becomes a habit, and you accidentally break into song during a board meeting at work.


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