AARC Tip of the Month | May 2019 | View as Webpage
Summer Programs & Tips for Playgroups
Now that the school year is winding down, activities such as play dates and other recreational activities come up. These activities can be difficult for children with autism due to sensory and social skills challenges. While you may want to see your child included in fun activities, the activity may not be fun to the child with autism. As much as your child may want friends or have an interest in other children, being overstimulated or not knowing the “rules” to a playdate can be confusing.

There are ways to minimize the stress around these activities and make a playdate enjoyable:

  1. Start small when planning events 
  2. Choose 1 child to have a playdate with  
  3. Plan in advance so that you can prepare your child for the upcoming activity
  4. Prepare for the playdate by using tools such as:
  • social stories
  • videos of past successful playdates or role playing what your child might do

It is also a good idea to keep the time relatively short for the first few playdates. This will allow your child to have success without becoming overwhelmed. The more success a child has, the more fun they will have next time!

If you’re looking for additional support or training about play groups, check out the Structured Play Groups training in the AFIRM Autism Module.

If your child is ready to explore additional activities outside of small play dates, here are some resources to check out for recreational programs in Alaska:

Inclusive/Adaptive Activities:

  • Alpine Alternatives/Camp Abilities (Anchorage) - A variety of adaptive recreational activities & camps for children & adults experiencing disabilities. Contact: 907-561-6655. Here is a link to their summer calendar.

  • Arc of Anchorage - The Arc provides recreational and social opportunities throughout the year: thearcofanchorage.org

  • Focus Outreach (Eagle River)- offers an 8 week summer camp that runs 9:30am-4pm Monday through Thursday. Each week has a schedule of activities that is created by a certified and trained Recreational Therapist. Contact: 907-694-6002. focusoutreach.org/summer-camp

  • Gateway to the Arctic Camp (Talkeetna) - Inclusive summer camps. Sessions available for special needs youth/adults. Contact 907-290-0756. g2arctic.org/camps-calendar

Additional Resources (not need-specific)
AARC is closed for the summer until August 9th, 2019. We will reopen on Monday, August 12th. During this time, we won't be sending out a Tip of the Month, but we'll be back with new resources and tips in August!

We hope you have a wonderful summer!
Resources of the Month
The resources of the month are available in the Special Education Service Agency (SESA) Library. Search for items on the   SESA website , or contact the librarian, Anne Freitag, at   afreitag@sesa.org   or 907-334-1301 

Electronic books may be accessed from anywhere in the state. If you've used our ebooks before,   go to the login  page here.  If you haven't, please contact Anne so she can set up a username and password for you.   Learn more about ebooks here .
Ben has Autism, Ben is Awesome
By Meredith Zolty; illustrated by Rebecca Rivard
Jason and Nordic Publishers, 2011. ISBN: 9780944727409
Description: A five-year-old boy with autism shares some of the things he can do, such as type his name and play tag and hide-and-seek, as well as some of his challenges, such as not liking the feeling of wind on his face or having trouble putting on his pajamas, and ways he has learned to cope with his difficulties.
Developing Leisure Time Skills for Persons with Autism: A practical approach for home, school and community
By: Phyllis Coyne, Colleen Nyberg, Mary Lou Vandenburg Future Horizons, Inc., 1999. ISBN: 1885477562
Description: Free time should be part of the day that all kids look forward to. But for many children on the autism spectrum, it is a painfully unstructured part of the day defined by anxiety and fear. This book provides comprehensive, structured strategies to help adults introduce meaningful activities to ASD children, which they can practice at school or at home. The first half of the book provides forms and charts that will help adults assess the child's sensory needs, select age- appropriate activities, and then determine level of interest in specific activities. The second half provides numerous "Activity Cards" for going to the park, playing games, listening to music, and many more!
Embracing Play (DVD): Teaching the child with autism
Produced by David Donnenfield Productions for Behavioral Intervention Association; directed by David Donnenfield; written by Hilary Baldi, Deanne Detmers, David Donnenfield. Woodbine House, 2006. 9780972708012
Description: Designed for the parents of autistic children, Embracing play examines object-oriented play as a way of engaging the autistic child. Demonstrates strategies for creating the structure necessary to foster the child's play skills.
Improving Play Skills (DVD)
Presented By: New York Families for Autistic children; filmed and edited by Boo Boo Productions
New York Families for Autistic Children, 1999.
Description: Andrew Vaughn hosts this video intended to improve the autistic child's play skills. Several different types of play are reviewed, including isolated play, cooperative play, and pretend play, then the skill sets for specific basic, intermediate, and advanced target skills are described. A combination of techniques -- such as task analysis and reinforcement of positive behavior -- and a variety of tools are described to help the autistic learner understand which behavior is appropriate and enhance their play.
Nobody Likes Me, Everybody Hates Me: The top 25 friendship problems and how to solve them
By: Michele Borba
Jossey-Bass, 2005. ISBN: 9780787976620
Description: “Based on a survey of five thousand teachers and parents, Nobody Likes Me shows how to teach your child the 25 most essential friendship-building skills kids need to find, make, and keep friends, as well as survive that social pressure from peers.” While not specifically for students on the autism spectrum, this is a great starting place. It includes information on organizing playgroups.
Pivotal Response Treatments for Autism: Communication, social & academic development
By Robert L. Koegel & Lynn Kern Koegel, with invited contributors
Brookes, 2006. ISBN: 1557668191
Description: This book has a chapter specifically on play dates and friendships.
Peer Play and the Autism Spectrum: The art of guiding children's socialization and imagination: integrated play groups field manual
By Pamela J. Wolfberg; foreword by Adriana L. Schuler AAPC, 2003. ISBN: 193128217X
Description: " Many children on the autism spectrum spend inordinate amounts of time alone. Without appropriate intervention, they are especially vulnerable to being excluded from their peer group and leading impoverished play lives...offers an introduction to the basic principles, tools and techniques that comprise the Integrated Play Groups model. Pamela Wolfberg essentially translates theory into effective and meaningful practice, giving practitioners, parents and other caregivers the tools to initiate peer play groups for children in school, home and community settings." - Publisher's website .
Play and Imagination in Children with Autism
By: Pamela J. Wolfberg
Teachers College Press, 1999. ISBN: 080773814X
Description: "...examines the complex problems children with autism experience in reciprocal social interaction, communication, and imagination by looking closely at the nature of the disorder in relation to play's role in childhood culture and development, as well as current intervention practices...presents ethnographic case portraits of three children with autism as they overcome obstacles to enter into the "play culture" of their peers. The author traces their development over ten years (from ages 5 to 16), focusing on a two-year period during which the children participated in a peer play intervention. This period marked the emergence of remarkable transformations in the children's social relations with peers and symbolic activity." - Back cover.
The Social Play Record: A toolkit for assessing and developing social play from infancy to adolescence
By: Chris White
Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006. ISBN: 9781843104001
Description: "...a practical resource for assessing and developing social play in children with autistic spectrum disorders (ASDs) or difficulties with social interaction. This toolkit is designed to be used collaboratively with children, parents, carers and practitioners. It is suitable for assessing children of all learning abilities and stages of development, from early infancy to adolescence, and includes photocopiable assessment and intervention materials." - Publisher's website.
Tasks Galore: Making groups meaningful
By: Laurie Eckenrode, Pat Fennell, & Kathy Hearsey
Tasks Galore, 2005. ISBN: 9781934226025
Description: "Full-color photographs help teachers, parents, and therapists apply structured teaching techniques to classroom groups and school specialties (music, dance, and physical education), as well as to home parties." - Cover.
Stewie BOOM! and Princess Penelope: Handprints, snowflakes and play-dates
By Christine Bronstein; illustrated by Karen L. Young.
Nothing but the Truth, 2018. ISBN: 9780997296273
Description: At school, Penelope's teacher encourages the class to play with someone new at recess so that they can see that minds, like handprints and snowflakes, are one of a kind. Penelope chooses Eric and they have so much fun she invites him over for a play-date. Before he arrives, Penelope's Mom tells her that Eric's mind is called "on the spectrum," and so his unique preferences might be different from the ones she's used to. To prepare, they practice using quiet voices, listening with their eyes, and being flexible. As their play-date unfolds, Penelope and Eric show readers the many ways that families can embrace neuro-diversity.
Alaska Autism Resource Center | 866-301-7372 | aarc@sesa.org | www.AlaskaARC.org