When you are working with students who have autism or other complex communication disorders, there may be so many areas to focus on that it can be overwhelming! We want to help our students increase their communication skills and become more independent with these skills. We also want our students to enjoy play and leisure with their teachers, peers and family. One way to target all of these skills is within modified leisure activities.
Modified leisure activities are so vital to help our students increase their skill set in this area. If they are able to learn how to play a new game with you in therapy, they can generalize this skill when playing with a friend and also to the home environment with parents and siblings. This can be such an amazing experience for family, when a student can independently engage in a play-based activity. This is why including direct instruction of modified leisure skills, for students with a weakness in this area, can be so very powerful!
One activity that I love to teach students is how to play modified memory. Memory is such a great game and you can target so many communicative based skills. These may include but are not limited to: matching, sitting for a duration of time, staying engaged in a task without prompting, taking turns with others and labeling. Wow so many skills all in one activity.
Another thing that is so amazing with teaching leisure skills is that they can be generalized to a variety of settings. I may start by teaching this skill to a student in an individual session. After the student has demonstrated mastery in this setting, I will generalize it to a small group setting. Once they can engage in this type of environment, we can generalize it to the home environment. It can become an activity that they feel confident playing and love!
One strategy that I like to use to teach my students new skills is video modeling. Video modeling simply defined is as follows: the student watches a video of the targeted skill taking place before they practice the skill. Video modeling can be used for a variety of activities to include but not limited to making a snack, doing laundry, playing a game. Video modeling can be
such a powerful teaching tool. I show my students a video model of how to play modified memory, before we play the game. I will also send this video home to their parents, so that they understand how we are playing the game in the school environment. Here is the video that I like to use with my students.
Memory comes in all shapes and sizes! I have seen Mickey Mouse memory, regular memory, SpongeBob memory; the list goes on and on. The way that I modify this game is to keep all of the pieces turned facing up, so that the students can see the pictures. When all of the pieces are facing up, it makes the task of finding a match easier for the student to complete. You may also want to modify how many pieces are set out on the table. Memory has so many pieces, that I find many children feel overwhelmed when all of the pieces are laid on the table all at once. Follow these tips and have fun!