How NOT to Play a Board Game with a Child with Autism
Children with autism don't usually like board
games because they don't know how to take turns and they don't like rules.
Board games also rely on interacting with people-now there's a threat to
children with autism.
However, when a board game is played alone, without
rules, without interaction with other people, without taking turns, is it still
a board game? I don't really know the answer to that, but here's a little story
for you between my son and me that took place several years ago."I want to be blue," I requested as I
sat down on the floor by Doug.
"Nope." Doug was precise in his
response. His eyeballs pinned down the game board, ignoring me as much as
"How about red?" I continued the
quest for my own color to move around Monopoly.
"I could be green, like Kermit?"
can I play Monopoly with you?"
Doug continued setting up his game of Monopoly. He placed the Community Chest and Chance cards in their respective places and went directly to Go with his orange peg.
I snagged a book from the coffee table,
curled my legs beneath myself, and began reading as I snuggled in on the sofa.
Doug distributed the money alongside
the Monopoly board by denomination. He sorted the property cards by color and
the dice were directly in the center of the board waiting for their first roll.
Houses and hotels sat on the edge of the coffee table in rows of perfection and
I knew I was not to disrupt their foundations. This Monopoly game had all the
earmarks of a professional, Las Vegas
tournament. The ante was high-Doug against the world.
"I would really like to play," I
At least my book was good with only one
eye in it. My other eye surveyed Doug's one-man-show of Monopoly. It was
remarkably smooth for being wrapped in silence. It followed all of the rules of
the game with the exception of taking turns with another player. In the world
of iPads and applications today, I think this could have been a good app, but
it was early 1980's.
It was time for me to go into the
kitchen to start dinner. Only the sound of the die tumbling on the board was
heard from the family room along with an occasional, "Ohhhhhh," sigh from Doug.
"I'm done," announced Doug about
thirty-minutes later. "I lost."
"Doug, you don't lose when you play
Monopoly by yourself."
"Well, I did."
story is an example of how NOT to play a board game with your client or your
child. I could have initiated many interventions here. Since Monopoly was one
of Doug's favorite pastimes, I didn't want to spoil the whole thing for him by
insisting I be part of the entire game. Here are ten strategies I've thought of
since Doug passed Go and left the Monopoly board behind that I could have done
to promote turn taking, interaction, following rules, and expressive, receptive,
and pragmatic language skills.
- Rolled the dice
- Set a timer and played for five
- Given him the "Get out of Jail
- Played the banker
- Been in charge of the houses and
- Made a few positive statements
about his good playing from a distance while reading my book on the sofa
(never asking a question or expecting a response)
- Written an "invite your mother to
play card" for him to put in the game with the purpose of giving it to me
in the near future
- Because Doug is a history buff, I
could have read aloud some history of one of the places on the Monopoly
- Gotten my own game and played along
side of him to see if it sparked an interest to play what I was playing
- Together, make up new places and
cards for the Monopoly board (that was before they had all of the
different Monopoly Board games - today I would tell Doug that we would buy
a Disney or such Monopoly Board and we would play it together
"Speech pathologists make good things