The Power of Play for Children With Autism
By Marina Maskaykina – GreaterGood.org
You may have heard about a boy with autism in the news recently. Brynjar Bigisson, a 10-year old boy from Iceland, is making headlines for building the world’s largest Lego replica of the Titanic. Brynjar spent 11 months building the replica, which the Titanic Museum in Tennessee will soon feature. The amazing thing about this story is the impact his determination has had, both on his life and the lives of other children with autism. Before building the replica, Brynjar had difficulty communicating with the outside world. This made him unhappy and lonely. Through his constructive play, he gained confidence and pride in himself. Now, he and his family are advocating for children with autism to follow their dreams.
Symptoms of autism include difficulty processing sensory information like textures, sounds, smells, tastes, light, and movement. This can make ordinary situations feel overwhelming for children with autism. This is where learning-through-play is so important. Brynjar’s story is just one example of the importance of mind-stimulating play sessions. He gained confidence in himself after building something with his hands. He is now able to communicate better with the outside world. Play sessions also help children develop fine and gross motor skills, visual tracking, hand/eye coordination, as well as socialization and cooperation with others.
At GreaterGood.org, we believe all children should follow their dreams, regardless of any limitation.
That’s why we’ve partnered with the Anixter Center to help them develop a curriculum specifically for children with autism and other cognitive and behavioral disabilities. Now the Ferst School in Chicago uses this curriculum. Ferst School is a therapeutic day school staffed by dedicated special education teachers and therapists. The new curriculum includes a number of different lessons. Children will enjoy creating arts and crafts projects with different textures, morning yoga and breathing exercises to help identify and reduce anxiety, talking circles to improve communication skills, and much more.
In a lesson called No Two Alike (pictured above), students got to use their observation skills. They identified differences and similarities in their external appearances and then their internal systems. Children come in all shapes and sizes, and children with autism are no exception. Children with autism tend to be visually oriented, so this lesson was designed to focus on what they can’t see from the outside. The goal of this lesson was to show the students that they are all the same on the inside, regardless of how different they may look on the outside. Students learned about their organs, digestive system, bones, and their muscles, and they had fun doing it!
You can help children with autism continue to grow!
Your donations can help more children and families benefit from therapeutic play! On top of the work they’re doing at Ferst School, Anixter Center also offers family play therapy. These sessions help children with autism build connections and grow. Families are closely involved so they can continue the play sessions at home.