A few weeks ago, my son’s classmate taught him how to “play Spiderman.” The conversation began when the classmate told his mother that my son didn’t know how to play the game. In response, the mother told her son she should teach him how to play by showing him what he could do. The classmate went to school the next day and did exactly that during recess.
The response? My son came home excited to show me how he played Spiderman. Little does the classmate know my son is on the spectrum, and has difficulty understanding certain social cues. The classmate’s small act of kindness made all the difference for my son.
For Autism Awareness Month, I asked experts across the U.S. to give adults detailed information on how to teach inclusive play in a neurodiverse world. What I’ve learned from being the mother of a son on the spectrum is that it takes more than talking about inclusive play or even reading books about it, adults need to give their children very concrete examples of what inclusive play means.
Matt Beltran, an occupational therapy assistant for 15 years at Sierra School of San Diego, said “play is how all people learn to navigate their environment around them throughout the developmental stages of life.”
“These play skills will provide the tools necessary to utilize the sensory system to navigate social, emotional, and motor-based opportunities that are fulfilling and person-centered,” Beltran said. “All children require the same opportunities for play, exploration and social participation. Exposure to diverse interests and approaches help to foster a social acceptance of differences.”