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  • Writer's pictureSATC Team

Parenting Autism - Nurture Gross Motor Skills Through Play for Autistic Children


Parenting a child with autism is a unique and rewarding journey that requires an understanding of neurodiversity. Early intervention is paramount in supporting autistic children's development, including the crucial aspect of gross motor skills.

Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) therapy plays a vital role in early intervention, often incorporating play-based techniques to make learning enjoyable and effective.

In this article, we'll explore ways parents can teach gross motor skills through play to their autistic children, emphasising the importance of neuro-affirming approaches.

Understanding Autism and Early Intervention

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that presents differently in each individual. While it can come with unique strengths, it can also often involve challenges related to communication, sensory sensitivities, and difficulties with daily living. Early intervention, initiated as soon as possible, is key to helping children with autism build essential skills, including gross motor skills. This proactive approach maximises their potential for growth and independence.

The Significance of Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills involve the use of large muscle groups for activities such as running, jumping, climbing, and coordination. These skills are essential for daily functioning, physical fitness, and participation in recreational activities. For autistic children, developing gross motor skills can contribute significantly to their overall well-being and quality of life.

Using Play to Teach Gross Motor Skills

1. Outdoor Adventures: Take advantage of outdoor spaces to encourage physical activity and the development of gross motor skills. Activities like running, jumping on trampolines, climbing playground structures, and playing catch promote strength, balance, and coordination.

2. Yoga and Stretching: Incorporating yoga and stretching exercises into your child's routine can improve flexibility, body awareness, and coordination. There are kid-friendly yoga videos and apps available to make these activities engaging and fun.

3. Dance and Movement: Encourage dancing to favourite songs or interactive dance video games. Dancing not only promotes gross motor skills but also provides an outlet for self-expression and creativity.

4. Obstacle Courses: Design obstacle courses using cushions, tunnels, hula hoops, and other household items. Allow your child to navigate the course, promoting balance and spatial awareness.

5. Swinging and Swinging Toys: Swings can be particularly enjoyable for many autistic children. Swinging helps with balance and sensory regulation. Consider using sensory swings or swinging toys for added sensory input.

6. Martial Arts and Sports: Enrol your child in martial arts or sports programs that align with their interests. These activities can enhance gross motor skills while fostering discipline and social interaction.

7. Scavenger Hunts: Organise indoor or outdoor scavenger hunts, encouraging your child to explore their environment and practice gross motor skills while searching for hidden treasures.

Embracing Neuro-Affirming Approaches

Incorporating neuro-affirming approaches is essential when teaching gross motor skills to autistic children. Here's how parents can create an inclusive and supportive environment:

1. Individualised Support: Recognise and cater to your child's unique needs and preferences. Be patient and adjust activities as necessary to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable experience.

2. Positive Reinforcement: Acknowledge your child's efforts and celebrate their achievements, no matter how small. Positive reinforcement boosts self-esteem and encourages continued participation.

3. Visual Supports: Utilise visual supports, such as schedules, visual timers, and social stories, to help your child understand and prepare for playtime activities.

4. Sensory Considerations: Be mindful of sensory sensitivities and provide sensory-friendly play options. Create a calming space for sensory breaks if needed.

5. Peer Interaction: Encourage social interaction by arranging playdates or group activities. This promotes both gross motor skill development and social skills growth.

Encouraging Your Child’s Unique Diversity with Scarlett SATC

Incorporating play-based techniques into your autistic child's daily routine can foster the development of gross motor skills while celebrating their unique neurodiversity. ABA therapy and early intervention remain essential components of support, including embracing neuro-affirming approaches ensures a positive learning environment that enhances your child's overall development.

Embrace the journey of nurturing gross motor skills through play, celebrate your child's achievements, and watch them thrive as they navigate the world of movement and physicality with confidence and joy.


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