21 Interesting And Fun Activities For Autistic Teenagers

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Autistic teens have different needs. They cannot learn and understand what they see, hear, or sense, unlike other kids. So, how fair is it to expect them to learn something from regular classroom teaching methods? Autistic kids learn better with activities that aim to teach them something particular, like everyday habits, behaviors, etc.

Providing them with an environment, which would nurture and give them individual importance would help them grow better.

MomJunction has compiled a few interesting activities for autistic teenagers to help further their development. The selection of activities aims at developing sensory, social, and cognitive skills of teens with special needs.

What Is Autism?

Autism is a developmental disability that exhibits a range of symptoms, characteristics, and severity levels. Though the symptoms of autism vary from teen to teen, most troubled teens tend to suffer from social and communication problems and misappropriate sensory development. So, you need to boost your teen’s morale and encourage them to participate in several social and creative activities.

Importance Of Social Activities For Autistic Teens

Teenagers with autistic disorders often have difficulties communicating and socializing, and lack of necessary skills adds to their social anxiety. To help autistic youth develop the necessary social skills and find their identity, teachers and caregivers should indulge them in social activities.

Social activities allow autistic teenagers to:

  • Explore and develop their interests
  • Be confident and try new things
  • Learn accepted social behavior
  • Meet like-minded teens and spend some quality and learning time with them
  • Learn new skills like dancing, singing, sports, etc.

You could help your teens join a club or a community center keeping in mind their interests. You can also assist them to start a club of their own and invite people with similar interests to join.

[ Read: Fun Games For Autistic Kids ]

Engaging Activities For Teenagers With Autism

A classroom lecture is not an effective teaching methodology for autistic students. Teenagers and young children with autism tend to learn something better when you let them experience it practically.

Here are 21 engaging things to do with autistic teenager that are aimed at teaching and developing their skills, required for a comfortable and confident social life.

Individual Activities

Autistic kids do not pick up social skills as quickly or easily as other children do. But you can start building your child’s skills slowly. Here are the solo activities to do with autistic teenagers.

1. Reading simple, interesting books

Reading simple, interesting books

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Reading helps enhance cognitive functions and keeps the brain active. Sit with your teen and encourage her to read educational, fiction, and scientific books that are easy to read and understand.

How it helps: Develops language improves learning and comprehension skills.

You will need: A collection of interesting educational, scientific, and fiction books and novels.

Type: Indoor activity

What to do:

  • Schedule reading hours for your teen.
  • Encourage her to read easy-to-read yet interesting books.

2. Listening to music and music therapy

Listening to music and music therapy

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Music can be therapeutic. Music therapy helps your autistic adolescent develop language and speech abilities efficiently. Music contributes to improving the teen’s life and inculcates positive changes in her behavior.

How it helps: Relaxes the teenager, and reduces anxiety; it can also support memory enhancement and communication.

You will need: A collection of entertaining and enjoyable songs and themes.

Type: Indoor activity

What to do:

  • Make your autistic teen listen to several interesting songs every day.
  • Encourage her to join music classes and sing simple songs.
  • Encourage her to participate in musical programs at school or college and sing in a choir.
  • Try introducing her to musical instruments. She may like playing an instrument more than singing.

3. Puzzles

Puzzles

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A puzzle is about bringing different parts together to something meaningful. Autistic teenagers are visually skilled and enjoy working on puzzles. Most autistic kids have hyper-focus, which they can use to solve puzzles. They can sit for hours together, trying to solve one. Puzzles are also used to help children with speech disabilities.

How it helps: Puzzles enhance cognitive abilities, speech and communication skills. They could also spark their imagination.

You will need: Jigsaw puzzles of different levels – simple to complex.

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Puzzles are excellent tools for engaging autistic teenagers. So, use them at a time in the day when they tend to get restless.
  • Start with a simple puzzle at first and slowly increase the difficulty level of the puzzles you choose for your teen.
  • Your teen may become engrossed in the activity, but try and make them talk about what they are doing and thinking. It helps strengthen their communication skills. Let them talk at their own pace, don’t rush them.

[ Read: Activities To Improve Self Esteem In Teens ]

4. Computer games

Computer games

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Unlike what many people think, computer games are not all bad. The right games can teach your children a lot of things and help develop their skills. Research reveals that autistic teenagers can develop their social skills and problem-solving skills by playing computer games. (1)

Pick a computer game that matches your teen’s IQ levels and skill level. Set aside half-an-hour every day in their schedule to play these games. Most autistic teens like a routine.

How it helps: Improves social skills, encourages them to use logic, story-based games encourage imagination and creativity

You will need: Time management games, role-play games, storytelling games, puzzles

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Start with a simple training game like Eric Goes to the Airport or Robbie the Robot coaches that teach them about basic behavioral skills when in public.
  • If your child enjoys it, you can try introducing a role play or a time management game.
  • MMO games are an excellent idea for working on your teen’s social skills.
  • Your teen can also learn about socialization when they play multi-player games with family and friends.

5. Draw Something app

Draw Something app

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If your teenager likes technology, you can try getting him or her to use the app called Draw Something. It is a social drawing tool that allows you to play with your friends and send messages in the form of pictures they draw.

How it helps: The game is about creative communication and teaches the teen a creative way to express himself and try to understand what the other person is trying to say.

You will need: A smartphone with the Draw Something app

Type: Indoor game

Instructions:

  • Introduce the game to your teen. Use two phones to play the game with him first.
  • Give your teen one phone, and you take the other. Play the game with each other first and see how he responds.
  • In all probability, your teen would like it. Once he is comfortable with it, you can teach him how to play the game with other online players.

Team Activities For Autistic Adolescent

Interaction is the key to developing social skills. If you want to help your autistic teen with his or her social life, you should encourage them to participate in team activities and events as much as possible. That said, you should not push them into something they are not comfortable with. Ease them into society one step at a time.

6. Dancing

Dancing

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Dancing is fun and will help make your autistic teen feel happy and fresh. Dance is also a social activity that they may have to learn about to have successful romantic relationships in the future.

How it helps: Improves social interaction skills and boosts their confidence

You will need: Music and place to dance

Type: Indoor or outdoor activity

Instructions:

  • Show them a few dance videos online to introduce the concept.
  • One of the best ways to teach your kids something is to model that behavior. Show them how to dance, or better, dance with them.
  • Display positive behavior and emotions when you dance, to encourage the teen to try it. Don’t pull them onto the dance floor. Let them come and join you.
  • Take them to events where people dance and have fun.
  • You could even call a few of your teen’s friends for a dance party. If his friends dance, your teen is likely to dance as well.

7. Go for camping

Go for camping

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Camping is a great idea if your teenager already has a few social skills and gets along fairly well with different people in the group. Camping with friends and strangers can help in developing social skills and learning new life skills.

How it helps: Develops social skills and basic life skills

You will need: Camping materials, bags, tents

Type: Outdoor activity

Instructions:

  • Take your teen on a camping trip with the family. Let him experience it among people he is comfortable with first.
  • Then plan a camping trip with a few friends that your teenager knows and some he doesn’t know. The idea is to help him get along with people he meets for the first time.
  • Once he gets the hang of what camping is about, you can encourage him to go on camping tours on his own, with his friends or group members.

8. Play tennis

Play tennis

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Tennis is an excellent game for fitness of body and mind. The game allows your teenager to become physically stronger while teaching him or her to compete sportively with other players.

How it helps: Importance of rules, healthy competition

You will need: Tennis racquets and balls, tennis court

Type: Outdoor game

Instructions:

  • Introduce the game to your autistic teen by showing him a few games on TV or video.
  • Take your teenager to the tennis court, give her tennis racquet and ball, and educate her to play tennis.
  • Initially, teach her simple and slow ways to play the sport and gradually raise the difficulty level.
  • Enrolling them in a tennis club can help them practice the game with other players.

[ Read: Tips To Make Teens More Responsible ]

9. Household chores

Household chores

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Autistic teenagers have difficulty understanding concepts like responsibility and sharing. You can help your child understand the ideas practically. The best way is to get them to help you with chores around the house.

How it helps: Home maintenance, they become more responsible about what they are supposed to do, helping family

You will need: NA

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Start by giving them small tasks like passing something from the fridge, putting things in place, using a cloth to clean or dust a surface, etc.
  • As they get comfortable doing things around, you could teach them to make their beds, set the table, clean around the house, and even help cook a small meal.

10. Participate in community gardening activities

Participate in community gardening activities

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Nature has a way to heal people. Community gardening, like music, can be therapeutic and also allows your autistic teen to socialize. Becoming a part of gardening projects will help boost your teen’s social skills and help her come in contact with nature in a better way than usual.

How it helps: Helps develop social skills and sensory abilities.

You will need: A set of gardening tools containing grass shears, trowel, shovel, hand fork, and other gardening equipment.

Type: Outdoor activity

Instructions:

  • If you have a home garden, try spending some time with your kid there. You could plant seeds, water plants, or rake the fallen leaves.
  • Provide a gardening tool kit to your autistic teen and encourage her to participate in several gardening projects actively.

11. Role play

Role play

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Role play is an excellent tool to help your teenager practice social skills. You can teach her how to behave in different social situations with role playing games and activities.

How it helps: Builds social skills, introduces them to social norms

You will need: A list of situations, events that your teen is likely to encounter and a script to teach him or her how to behave in that situation

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Start with a basic role play like an interaction with a salesman at the supermarket.
  • Move on to other social situations involving more people. Try being a different person each time, so that they understand that not everyone is the same.
  • Role plays can also be used to teach them how to interact with their classmates, friends, and teachers at school.

Activities to Improve Sensory Skills

The sensory skills of an autistic teenager are not as developed as they should be for the age. Autistic teens cannot function at the same level as a typical teenager. Indulging them in these activities and games can help improve their sensory abilities.

12. Staring contest

Staring contest

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Eye contact is one the most important aspects of healthy and efficient communication. It portrays confidence and plays a major role in situations like interviews and even dates. Teens with autism are not very comfortable with looking other people in the eye. You can help them change that with this activity.

How it helps: Helps them make healthy, appropriate eye contact

You will need: Nothing

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Sit opposite your autistic teenager and ask him or her to look into your eyes.
  • Ask them to maintain contact as long as they can. Your teen may not be able to hold her gaze for more than a few seconds. That’s okay.
  • Play the game as many times as you can, encouraging them each time they manage to hold their gaze longer.

As you progress, you can also teach them the difference between healthy eye contact and staring.

13. Spot the difference

Spot the difference

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Autistic kids have strong visual skills, but not the intelligence to look for subtle differences. You can help them make the most of their visual skills with this game.

How it helps: Stimulate their sense and encourage visual discrimination

You will need: A set of spot the difference games, sheets, or newspaper cuttings

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Start with a simple spot the difference games you find in the papers. Show how it is done and let your teenager try the next one.
  • Let them take as much time and as many trials, as they need, while guiding them at every step.
  • Do not reveal the answer to them, as that can be discouraging.
  • Praise them each time they spot a difference.

14. Emotion charades

Emotion charades

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Emotion Charades is similar to the basic game, except the autistic teens will have to express the emotion written on the piece of paper. Teenagers with autism cannot identify emotions merely by looking at other people. So to teach your kid to express an emotion, show him or her videos or photos of people with different expressions and explain each.

How it helps: Improves communication, name a feeling, identify and understand expressions

You will need: Pieces of paper, timer

Type: Indoor game

Instructions:

  • Play this game with family or your teenager’s friends.
  • Start the game yourself and show how it is done. Encourage them to try and identify the emotion you are expressing.
  • Help your teenage son or daughter pick a chit like you did and try to show what is on the paper, without speaking.

[ Read: Social Skills Activities For Teens ]

15. Matching game

Matching game

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The matching game is a brain stimulant that teaches autistic teenagers to link place, objects, events, etc., with their names, features, and more. You can try this game with emotions as well.

How it helps: Enables them to connect two objects, people, words, etc.

You will need: Paper, photos of people expressing different emotions, photos of places, events, objects, etc.

Type: Indoor game

Instructions:

  • Lay the photos on the table. Fold the pieces of paper into folded chits and put them in a basket.
  • Ask your son or daughter to pick up one piece of paper and find the matching photo.
  • Every time they get one right, praise them.

You can also play this as a group game, where your autistic teenager can be paired with a friend or family member.

16. Watching TV programs

Watching TV programs

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Research proves that autistic kids can benefit significantly from well-chosen TV programs. Firstly, TV can open the world to your child. They learn language skills which help them get acquainted with topics that they can discuss with their peers. TV programs can also help them learn how to behave in different social situations.

How it helps: Stimulates visual and auditory senses, develops language skills, social skills

You will need: TV, a few TV programs selected for your child

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Let them pick a video from your selection and play that.
  • Watch the program together. Ask questions in between, about what is happening in the program to see if they are following.
  • Don’t make it all about learning. Make sure your kid is having fun too.

Taking-turn Games

Autistic kids do not understand order or organization. That is why when you say ‘it is not your turn’, they do not know how they are supposed to behave. The only way to teach about order is through the taking-turn games.

17. Board games

Board games

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Children do not understand the idea of taking turns, as it is not an innate skill. Learning about it is all the more difficult for autistic kids, who do not understand verbal explanations. Board games are the best examples of games to play with autistic teenagers..

How it helps: Introduce the concept of rules, taking turns

You will need: Easy board games like Snakes & Ladders, Ludo, Monopoly, etc.

Type: Indoor game

Instructions:

  • Start with basic games that require nothing more than throwing the dice and moving the pawn.
  • Use words like ‘your turn’ and ‘my turn’ to help them understand the idea better.
  • Be proactive in giving the dice back to the other players after your turn. This will encourage your autistic teen to imitate you.

18. Playing with a car

Playing with a car

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This is one of the simplest activities for teenagers with autism. If your teen has trouble understanding the concept of taking turns with board games, you can start with this.

How it helps: Teaches about taking turns, encourages patience

You will need: Pullback motor car toys

Type: Indoor game

Instructions:

  • Pair up with your teen and sit opposite each other, at either end of the room.
  • Play with the car, taking turns to send it to each other.
  • If your teen does not want to play with a car, you could try playing catch.

[ Read: Indoor Games and Activities For Teens ]

Creative Autistic Teenager Activities

Creative activities give an autistic teenager the chance to explore colors, shapes, and materials, triggering a sensory experience.

19. Paint with ice

Paint with ice

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Combine ice and color, and you have a paintbrush that your autistic teen would not let go of. When your child paints with ice, he will see color and touch something ‘cold’.

How it helps: Engages the teenager physically and mentally, encourages imagination

You will need:

  • Ice tray
  • Water
  • Watercolor or paints
  • Craft sticks
  • Paper

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Help your child mix water paints and pour them in the ice tray.
  • Place the craft sticks in the center, such that they are standing; it would make it easier to hold the frozen paint cubes.
  • Once the paint cubes are frozen, take them out and let your teen pick a few colors he or she wants to use.
  • Give them a paper and ask them to use the paint cubes to draw or paint something on the paper.

20. Storytelling improvisation

Storytelling improvisation

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Autistic children have difficulty thinking logically. But they have an imagination that you can help develop. One way to do that is through impromptu storytelling activities.

How it helps: Improves their imagination, encourages them to be spontaneous and creative; the right words of encouragement also boost their confidence.

You will need: A list of ideas or plot that the children can build on. Examples: My day at school, A fun day at the mall, adventure with my friend, etc.

Type: Indoor or outdoor activity

Instructions:

  • Storytelling improvisation is an activity that works great with groups. Gather your teen’s friends in a circle.
  • Let one person start the story with a sentence. Example, I went to the forest today and…
  • The next person has to complete that line and add to the story. Encourage them to say what comes to their mind.
  • Allowing them to build the story as they like, without evaluation, also builds their confidence.

21. Crafts with clay

Crafts with clay

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Not all autistic teens like to get their hands dirty. But if your kid is okay with it, creating crafts with clay is an activity they might enjoy. Right now, let’s learn to make a simple snowflake sculpture with clay.

How it helps: Helps develop creativity and the sense of touch; also enables them to use their hands to create something easily.

You will need:

  • Air dry clay, white
  • Clay modeling tools or snowflake molds

Type: Indoor activity

Instructions:

  • Autistic teenagers learn something better when they see it. Take your teen out to catch a few snowflakes and observe each snowflake.
  • Let them understand that no two snowflakes are alike.
  • Set a table with the clay, mold, and modeling tools.
  • At first, let them create a snowflake sculpture with the mold.
  • Then encourage them to knead the dough into thin strands and make a snowflake using the tools.

Tell them to remember how the snowflake looked like. Let them create as many snowflakes as they want, in as many ways possible.

If your kid hates the look and smell of clay, you may want to avoid this activity until he or she is comfortable handling it. Otherwise, you might end up making their aversion stronger.

[ Read: Team Building Activities For Teens ]

Picking The Right Activities

Well, now that you have a list of activities, you can try them, right?

Wrong!

The activities we have listed above are for autistic teenagers, but they may not necessarily suit your kid. Before you try any, ask yourself – is this activity right for my teen? And you will get your answer when you figure out how to choose the right activities. Keep reading to know how.

  • Think about the skills your teen needs to develop – is it social skills, sensory skills, or motor skills? Or does he just need a dose of confidence?
  • Pick games designed to bring the desired result regarding behavior changes, sensory stimulation, etc.
  • If it is a group activity, handpick participants that your child is comfortable with. Also, include people who you think can help your teen develop his skills.
  • Consider any possible challenges you may face with your child during the activity. Your teen may not respond as expected, especially if the action triggers any significant changes in routine, or causes sensory overload.
  • For best results, look for games and activities that match your autistic teen’s interests. Your child would be eager to partake in an activity if they like it.

Regardless of what activity you choose, you may end up facing challenges with an autistic teenager. Or you may not have any issues at all. Whatever the response is, you would know better than to lose your patience. Try these activities or others you know of as many times as you can. With effort and time, you can help your teenager improve the skills he needs for a smooth and comfortable life ahead.

Do you have any more ideas to share with your fellow parents? Our comments section is yours to use!

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