5 Activities to Promote Learning in Children Who Aren’t Hitting Milestones

September 9, 2020

We celebrate accomplishments as they happen and flood social media with picture posts, excited phone calls to family and friends describing every tiny detail of the event. And if it were our child’s developmental milestones – the first smile, the first word uttered, the first step – our delight multiplies a hundredfold.

But what if those developmental milestones are just too slow in happening? Some of us would begin to quietly worry. Some would even hit the panic button. Some would silently draw comparisons to other kids. And what if they are delayed, or not quite what you expected them to be as in the case of children with ASD or Autism Spectrum Disorder?

Learning the Signs of ASD in Children

Children with ASD don’t follow the typical patterns of development for  social, cognitive, or communication skills compared with other kids their age. Apart from the professional support and therapies you can seek for your child, there are ways that you as a parent promote learning.

Before we explore some of the creative ways you can help your child progress, let’s talk a little bit about the qualitative differences your child may exhibit compared to their peers. By understanding their behavior, you would be able to come up with sound steps and great ideas to support your child’s progress.

Some of the things you need to know are:

  • The child with autism spectrum disorder may be truly happy to be left alone as they enjoy the solitude. They most likely prefer interaction with a particular object or adults rather than with other children.
  • Children with ASD often have a hard time coping with noise and attending to multiple aspects of a complex stimulus. For example, they may have an unusual reaction to the way something smells, sounds, looks, tastes, or feels.
  • A child with autism wants predictability instead of spontaneity or variety. He or she may get upset with minor changes.
  • Children with autism tend to lack understanding of personal space and non-verbal cues.
  • Promoting learning in children with ASD also means involving different techniques and numerous opportunities to practice desired skills. Oftentimes, play skills have to be taught.
  • It is obviously difficult for people with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder to learn how to socialize with their peers. This deficit may include lack of joint attention and trouble with understanding other people’s feelings.


Gaining a bit more understanding of how a child with autism would react to activities and learning in general, you know need to consider preparing the child before introducing any exercise. Here are a few guidelines to ensure successful results with any social play scenario:

1) It is best to prepare the child as much as possible based on his/her age or skill level for the sensory experience they will have in the activity.

2) To the greatest extent possible, the child should know what to expect and have a clear  understanding of what they will be asked to do BEFORE beginning the activity or game.

3) If your child has verbal abilities, he or she should be able to convey any anxiety or to be able to ask questions ahead of time.

4) When introducing a new activity, keep the interaction/session shorter and model the activities with your child. Make it FUN!

5) Incorporate the sensory activity into your child’s daily routine to allow more opportunities for learning. With increased practice, your child should gradually become more comfortable with the activities thus allowing a longer interaction/session.

Activities that Promote Learning in Children with Learning Disabilities

Children love diving their hands first into any play experience. They are wired to use their senses to develop skills during play. Games and activities that promote multi-sensory experiences mean that more neural pathways are opened, developed, and used.

So, the following is a list of kids' games and adaptations that can be enjoyed by kids with autism. It should be noted, however, that these learning activities can be modified and are just starting points or ideas for parents like you.

1) Finger painting. Slippery, a bit messy but a whole load of fun, finger painting can help the child learn about new textures through touch as well as have the opportunity to learn about colors.

2) Memory card game. Heavily visual, this game seeks to strengthen a child’s spatial awareness, memory, and remembering an item’s location.

3) Blowing bubbles. Not only is this activity a fun experience, but it also works on oral motor skills as well as joint attention – an essential yet challenging area for many children with autism.

4) I-Spy. This game helps increase a child’s focusing skills. Tip: Describe the object with as much detail as you can. For children with more serious processing issues, you can describe one of two items and have the child pick the correct one.

5) Rhythm and Dance. Put some nice music on and have an impromptu dance party. This is a perfect way for a child to improve physical coordination, learn about rhythm, and even counting.

Remember that you ARE the parent and should trust your instincts where your child is concerned. You are your child’s best advocate. Be patient and consistent to help your child progress with developmental milestones in his or her own unique way and time.


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