Recess is a crucial part of a child’s school day, offering a chance to unwind, socialize, and engage in physical activity. However, for autistic children, this unstructured time can be overwhelming and challenging. By incorporating strategies like using social stories and visual cue cards, we can create a more inclusive and supportive recess experience that caters to their unique needs. Continue reading for more information and download the free recess story and visual cue cards here.
Understanding the Needs of Autistic Preschoolers
Autistic preschool children often struggle with sensory sensitivities, communication difficulties, and social interactions. These challenges can make recess a daunting experience, causing them to feel anxious or overwhelmed. To ensure their well-being and help them make the most of recess, educators and caregivers can implement strategies that foster a sense of structure, predictability, and comfort.
The Power Of Social Stories
Social stories are simple narratives that provide guidance and insight into social situations. These stories can be particularly effective in helping autistic preschoolers understand the expectations and routines of recess. A well-crafted social story might describe what happens during recess, emphasize the fun and positive aspects of the experience, and offer coping strategies for potential challenges.
For instance, the story could explain that during recess, children can play games, run around, and have fun. It might also mention that some noises might be loud and that it’s okay to cover their ears if it bothers them. By presenting this information in a clear and concise manner, social stories help autistic children prepare for the sensory and social aspects of recess. These are aspects that should be individualized in a story for specific children.
Visual Cue Cards: Providing Clarity and Direction
Visual cue cards are another valuable tool that can enhance the recess experience for autistic preschoolers. These cards use simple pictures or symbols to represent different activities or behaviors. They provide visual prompts that help children understand what is expected of them and what options are available during recess.
For example, a visual cue card could have pictures of a swing, a ball, and a group of children playing tag. When the child sees these cards, they can select the activity they want to engage in, reducing the anxiety that may arise from uncertainty.
Creating a Supportive Recess Routine
Introducing these strategies into the recess routine involves collaboration between educators, therapists, and parents. Here’s how it could be done:
- Introduce Social Stories: Begin by reading the social story about recess to the children in a calm and engaging manner. Use simple language and visuals to help them grasp the concept.
- Visual Cue Cards: Display visual cue cards related to recess activities in a designated area. This provides children with a visual reference point when deciding how to spend their recess time. You can also prepare children for changes, like indoor recess, using these visual cue cards.
- Practice and Reinforcement: Practice the routine of selecting a visual cue card and engaging in the chosen activity during play. This helps children become familiar with options during recess.
- Positive Reinforcement: Celebrate each successful recess experience by acknowledging the child’s efforts and engagement. Positive reinforcement can motivate them to participate more actively in future recess sessions.
- Allow Alone Time: We all need downtime: This might be even more true for autistic children. Be sure to honor and allow for time for them to unwind in their own way during recess too.
Recess is a great place for all children to develop social skills, physical coordination, and a love for physical activity. By implementing strategies such as social stories and visual cue cards, we can create a more inclusive and supportive recess experience for autistic preschool children. These tools provide the structure and predictability that they need to navigate the challenges of unstructured playtime, helping them thrive in their early educational journey.
If you would like more visual supports to create predictable routines, click here.