What does it take to play a game?

blaise game 2Games are wonderful developmental learning tools for children.  They challenge many developmental areas simultaneously, requiring communication among different areas of the brain. So which skills need to come together to effectively play a game? Here are at least 6 of the things we observe/ work on when helping children learn how to play games:

  1.  Understanding game etiquette.   This means you have to know when to take your turn and when to wait,  accept losing, maintain your “cool” when things don’t go your way, be gracious when your friend gets lucky and joke/have fun in a non-offensive manner.
  2. Following multiple steps.    Setting up a game usually requires at least 3 steps, and even the simplest games require at least 2-3 steps to play, all at different levels of difficulty.  Some games might require picking a card and putting your token on the matching color square (i.e., Candy Land). Others might require spinning a wheel, determining the rule that is associated with that spin, then acting out that step (such as in Hi-Ho Cherrio!).
  3. Working with contingencies and being flexible.    Even simple games like Chutes and Ladders or Candy Land require players to deviate from the standard of counting and moving, if certain things happen.  More complex games like The Game of Life and Monopoly require decision-making and a variety of money transactions, in addition to spinning, counting, and moving.
  4. Sustaining attention and remaining in one spot.  Two-(or more)-player games are only fun for all parties if each person is invested in the game and can sustain attention.  An inability to sustain attention to the game could be related to the difficulty level of the game, the child’s impulse control, their need to move around, or a host of other reasons.
  5. Making precisely graded movements.  Games often have small pieces that need to be put in precise locations in order to maintain order in the game. When kids have difficulty grading the amount of pressure they put on something or lack precision in their movements, they may inadvertently mess up the whole game board, upsetting themselves and others.
  6. Exercising Cognitive and Language Skills.  Some of these skills include one-to-one correspondence, quantity concepts, counting, matching, reading for meaning, following directions, communicating with play partners, remembering, and many, many more!

Games are a wonderful way to support your child’s development, but can be frustrating if your child struggles with any of the skills above.  Modifications can be easy and fun and can support your child in their challenge areas.  In future blogs, we will discuss modifications for a variety of games. Meanwhile, take a look at some of our favorite games by clicking here, and scrolling about half-way down the page.


Disclosure:  Our company has signed up as an Amazon affiliate, which means that when a reader makes a purchase through one of our product links, we may receive a small commission.  We are committed to allocating any commissions received to a scholarship program for children who cannot afford our services.   We are also committed to only providing honest reviews and opinions about books and products that we believe our readers will benefit from or enjoy.

Book Review: Engaging Autism

outsideThe truth is all children need the principles on which DIR/Floortime® is based. It is a way of interacting with your child that improves their ability to engage, relate, communicate, and think logically and flexibly. All children (actually, all people)  can become better communicators, given coaching by a more competent communication partner.  Children with sensory-based communication impairments need particular focus and coaching in these areas of development by their parents, instructors, and caregivers.

The vast majority of the children we see in our clinic have sensory-based communication impairments. This means that their ability to engage, relate, communicate, and think logically and flexibility has been limited, at least in part, by sensory system challenges.  Engaging Autism is one of our most frequently recommended books to parents and caregivers. It is also a good introductory book to DIR/Floortime® for clinicians, teachers, and caregivers who are not trained in the approach/technique.

Here are the reasons we think you should read Engaging Autism by Stanley Greenspan, M.D., and Serena Wieder, Ph.D. (even if your child doesn’t have an autism diagnosis):

1. The book is easy for non-professionals to read. Drs. Greenspan and Wieder use language that is easy to relate to and give interesting examples to make the principles understandable.

2.  It is inspiring.  When  reading this book,  parents are often relieved because they realize that someone is actually addressing the real concerns they had for their child’s development, and that the approach makes sense intuitively.  It is an approach that parents can learn and implement themselves.  It gives parents a way to better understand their child.  With that increased understanding,  Floortime users learn that behavioral approaches can be limiting because they don’t always reach the child in his/her place of joy or understand the biological needs that may be limiting their child’s functioning.

3. Engaging Autism helps you become a better advocate for your child by giving insight into developmental steps that are not on a standard developmental chart.  Most people are familiar with developmental milestones which include when a child should roll over, sit, babble, and say their first words.   Fewer people have had exposure to developmental stages such as 1) Shared Attention and Regulation, 2) Engagement and Relating, 3)Purposeful Emotional Interactions, and 4) Shared Problem-Solving.   Understanding these stages described in this book will help you to advocate for your child when standard measures done by physicians and/or school systems say “Let’s wait and see.”

4.  This book can be read many times and the reader will learn something new each time.   As their child overcomes challenges and moves up the developmental ladder, parents can continue to refer to Engaging Autism to help them address higher level needs. Also, the person engaging with the child may refer back to the book to continue to hone his/her skills.   I, personally,  often look back at chapters in this book to help me refocus.  Also, I may refer parents, teachers, or clinicians to a specific chapter in this book.

5. There is a special section devoted to  “Overcoming Difficult Symptoms.”  This section gives insight into scripting/echolalia, self-stimulation, sensation craving, overactivity, avoidant behavior, activities of daily living (such as eating or toileting), behavior problems, coping with feelings, meltdowns and regressions.  Although there are no easy answers to these difficult symptoms, readers can understand what may be going on in their child’s brains and bodies in order to support them.

The emotional well-being of children and families is a huge priority when choosing how symptoms should be addressed.  Being able to understand our children at a deep level plays a huge role in the way we respond to situations, and the way that the child ultimately learns to see and value himself.  Engaging Autism will help you learn many wonderful things about your child and the immense value you can add to his/her life.