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Why is Interactive Play so important for your ASD child and how to encourage it?

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Children on the ASD spectrum have difficulties playing with other children as their social communication skills are not well developed.

This can hamper the child’s ability to initiate a game or invite others to join and coupled with cognitive difficulties can make it challenging for a child to develop the self-confidence necessary to engage in an interactive play in a social setting.

ASD children tend to stick to a play routine very rigidly which may not align with other children. They are also likely to demonstrate repetitive movements which may make them vulnerable to ridicule or in some cases even bullying by other children.

Benefits of Interactive play for an ASD child are –

  • Interactive play improves communication skills by providing the child an opportunity to initiate conversations and make small talk with others.
  • It helps enhance social skills as there is sharing involved.
  • Interactive play also aids cognitive development as the child is engaged in problem solving and using motor and fine skills for playing various games.

Strategies to encourage Interactive play among children on the Autistic spectrum.

  1. Play Dates

    Organize fun play dates for your ASD child in which he /she gradually becomes comfortable with interacting with others. It is recommended that you start with one friend and then build the friend circle slowly, adding 2-3 peers at each date. 

    Get creative and plan activities which your child enjoys and the ones which help improve his cognitive or communication skills.  Try to incorporate activities that make use of special skill or talents that your child has. This will boost his confidence and promote social interaction.

    Plan the play date schedule and let your child know the details of it. This will make him comfortable once he knows what to expect. Do not over monitor the activity. However, do provide positive reinforcement once the activity is completed and use reward charts regularly.

    Make sure the environment of the play date, be it home or any other is conducive to the sensory needs of your child. Avoid a noisy or a place with bright colour scheme.

  2. Pairing

    If the child is not comfortable with play dates that involve multiple children, consider pairing your child with a partner that is calm and patient so that your child learns that interaction can be fun.

    Invite over the paired child at home (where your child is comfortable).

Scientific Evidence
Fredrich Frankel, a researcher in psychiatry and Behavioral sciences at UCLA examined the relationship between mother-reported play date frequency and amount of conflict and peer interaction on the school playground. The researchers worked with a sample of 27 boys and 4 girls with clinically established diagnosis of ASD.

The findings suggested that children with autism spectrum disorders who had a higher frequency of play dates at home were inclined to spend more time engaged in positive behaviours such as mutual offering of objects, conversing with friends and classmates on the school playground.


  1. Marcus Autism Centre. Promoting play with others. 

    Available at - https://www.marcus.org/autism-resources/autism-tips-and-resources/promoting-play-with-others

  2. Frankel FD, Gorospe CM, Chang YC, Sugar CA. Mothers' reports of play dates and observation of school playground behavior of children having high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2011 May;52(5):571-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7610.2010.02318.x. Epub 2010 Sep 23. PMID: 20860756; PMCID: PMC3010494.