The Value of Sibling Play for Children with Autism

Monday August 24, 2020 at 10:07 AM


The Value of Sibling Play for Children with Autism

At a time when physical distancing guidelines keep us separated from each other in public, it’s more important than ever to maintain strong family bonds within the home, especially for little ones. Sibling play can be a particularly vital source of interaction and social development for a child, especially one for whom the social stimulation of a classroom has been replaced by a computer screen.

For parents of a child with special needs, however, fostering play among siblings can present unique challenges. Children with autism, for example, commonly exhibit deficits in social behavior that can pose a barrier to interactions with their neurotypical brother or sister. But that doesn’t have to mean these enriching experiences are off limits. The August issue of MetroParent magazine highlights an interview with Stephanie Maldonado-Velazquez, a BCBA and Practicum Manager at Gateway’s Dearborn location, who shares some helpful advice for parents facing this challenge.

Stephanie notes that simple activities and games can be an important context in which children develop skills like sharing or taking turns. In guiding the selection of such activities, Stephanie advises parents to meet their children where they are. “You never want to set up a game that is too difficult for either child,” she points out. In this way, parents can help set up their child for success.

In order to help a child on the spectrum develop key social and play skills, parents can also coach their neurotypical child on the best way to support his or her sibling. Importantly, the child with autism is not the only one who benefits from such an arrangement, Stephanie observes. A child learning how to be a role model for his brother or sister can gain a great sense of pride and satisfaction from the experience.

For more of Stephanie’s great tips on sibling play, including minimizing potential conflicts and matching activities to specific areas of skill development, you can check out the full article here. As always, you can stay up to date on all things Gateway by following our blog and social media posts.

Take care and have a great weekend!

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