Board games can offer a wealth of benefits for children on the autism spectrum. They can help them to focus on their strengths, share their accomplishments, and connect with family and friends. Board games can even prepare them for a potential working future in adulthood.

If you’re a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, you, your child, and your entire family can benefit from board game play.

Advantages of Board Games

  • Board Games Have Set, Predictable Rules. Actions are repeated, though perhaps with variations, in each turn. This aspect of routine and predictability is a motivator for children to repeat game play.
  • Board Games Players Learn Patience, Awareness of Others. Games involve turn-taking, but most games do not require players to make eye contact, as the board is the focus of the game. Thus, children learn to wait to repeat their turn and begin to pay attention to others’ actions and comments in the interim.
  • Board Games are Primarily Visual, Spatial, and Tactile. Many children with autism are visual learners. Board games allow them to use their visual strengths, to analyze a situation, compare options, and determine a result. Children with autism may be able to see visual details quickly and remember them. They may be able to visualize spatial relationships or use visual-spatial memory to compare options for movement of pieces. This often places children with these strengths at an advantage.
  • Most Board Games Strengthen Math Skills. These include counting, matching numbers, colors, or geometric shapes, or using patterns. Children who are at a higher level on the autism spectrum often excel at using math operations and seeing spatial or number patterns. Board games involving math concepts can allow children with these skills to practice, enhance, and demonstrate their knowledge.
  • Board Games Can Help Develop Emotional and Social Skills. If games are carefully selected to build on children’s interests and abilities, they can provide a framework to help children develop patience, tolerance for ambiguity, ability to recognize and regulate emotions, and a desire and ability to interact with others. Building emotional and social foundations will help children progress in all areas: developmental domains, academic content areas, and life skills.


Selecting the Appropriate Games

It can be difficult to know what games a child with autism or other special needs might like or if a game can be modified for the child’s abilities. This is where SimplyFun can help. Try our Advanced Search where you can select games based off of common strengths and challenges of children on the autism spectrum.

Source: Creating a Joint World of Fun: Using Board Games to Help Your Child with Autism Connect with Family Members, By Toni Linder, Ed.D.