If you have a child or work with children identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or sensory processing disorder (SPD), Barbara Sher, M.A., O.T.R., has another book for you. Early Intervention Games: Fun, Joyful Ways to Develop Social and Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorders written by the Game Lady, as Barbara Sher is also known, is for parents, caregivers, teachers, therapists, and anyone who is helping a young child find the joy of interacting with others by. What better way than through play…and like the last words in one of her chapters, “…let the games begin!”
Early Intervention Games – Goals of the Games
These past few years every parenting publication you read has articles on the importance of “PLAY” for all children. Barbara Sher’s book, Early Intervention Games, came out in 2006 but it does not mean it’s over the hill. It just means that Ms. Sher was an avant-guard and had reached the hill top before many others. This book is an excellent resource that I highly recommend. The games featured with all their variations and modifications will be just as useful years from now as they are today.
Barbara Sher has worked for over 40 years as a teacher and occupational therapist, specializing in pediatrics. She is the author of ten successful books. In her introduction of this book, she writes, “There are more people understanding and trying new ways to help their youngster modify, cope, and deal with the world so that joy, not pain, is the main sensation of their lives.”
Why is this book needed? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1 in 88 children in United States has been identified as having an autism spectrum disorder. Moreover research shows that the majority of children on the autistic spectrum also have sensory problems. Most of the games in this book are designed to integrate, challenge, and stimulate the child’s sensory systems. Through play the child in your care will sharpen his social, motor, and sensory skills and at the same time have FUN! What better way to make the difference it takes for a child with different needs to reach his potential.
Sensory processing disorders and autism often affect socialization. Behaviors are almost always affected. Some children have difficulty with transitions and fine and gross motor coordination. Some youngsters are fearful, withdrawn, and have difficulty adjusting to new situations. Ms. Sher summarizes that the three major goals for all the games are the following:
- To encourage the ability to focus on the present moment.
- To increase coordination.
- To learn to have fun socializing and engaging with others in back-and-forth play.
About the Early Intervention Games
Barbara Sher explains that her games should bring the children to feel “just right” and increase their social, motor, and sensory skills. She says, “As the child’s need for avoiding or seeking out extra stimulation decreases, his emotional energy is freed up and more available for socializing.” The games address specific characteristics of children with autism and sensory processing disorder.
- The ninety or so games in her book can be done at home alone with a caregiver or with siblings or friends and in a classroom with students of different abilities. There are many aquatic therapy games that require a pool, lake, or ocean.
- Most games however require little equipment and often the author suggests how to make the props for the games from recycled, household items. These words come to mind to describe the games: simple, effective, fun, and easy on the budget!
- Each game is written in the same, easy-to-use format.
- The detailed instructions remind me of a teacher’s lesson plan where nothing is left to chance.
- The goals of each game are listed at the beginning of each game.
- Then at the end of each game a section called, What Is Being Learned, explains in detail the purpose of the activity.
- Each game has accommodations and modifications suggested to motivate and include children of all abilities and sensibilities.
- Variations to each game are given making the games appropriate to develop other skills or fun to play again with a new twist.
- Some games integrate more than one sense and are useful for children who are ready for a higher level of sensory integration.
- Many of the games have black and white drawings to show more clearly the activity. The illustrator is Ralph Butler.
The first fifty pages inform the reader about the characteristics and needs of children with autism or sensory issues. The author tells you what needs to be done to help them feel good in their own skin, and why and how to do it.
The book is filled with tips and advice. For example, a successful strategy that Ms. Sher suggests is to give instruction to the children sung and repeated in song because for some children it is easier to listen to singing than to talking. To encourage socializing, there are games that are designed to be played with the help of others. To frame for success the level of difficulty of the games are varied and it is suggested you start where the child will be successful.
Early Intervention Games does not have a general index; however, the five pages of the Table of Content and Appendix 1, Index of Games by Sensory System or Skill Stimulated is all you need to quickly locate the game you need.
Each game encourages more than one skill or aspect of development; however, in appendix 1 the games are divided according to the system or skill most stimulated.
Ms. Sher has included interesting case studies to bring her point across.
The author points out often that those who “play” with children start by focusing on the child’s unique strengths. The games in this book are designed to address the sensory system and help the children feel they belong and experience the fun one has playing with others. The adults in a child’s life who follow what they learn in Barbara Sher’s book, Early Intervention Games: Fun, Joyful Ways to Develop Social and Motor Skills in Children with Autism Spectrum or Sensory Processing Disorders, will have fun getting to know their child and seeing him have fun playing these games too.
She is the author of nine books and one CD/tape on activities for children. Her books have been translated into 8 languages: Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Estonian, Arabic, Russian and Swedish, She has written numerous articles for publications such as in Mothering Magazine, Advance Magazine, etc. She is also the recipient of the World Rehabilitation Fund, “International Exchange of Experts”.
She believes in using children’s natural love of play to enhance key skills and promote inclusion. Her books include Early Intervention games, Self-Esteem games, Attention games and Spirit games.
She gives workshops nationally and internationally for teachers, parents and caregivers on these playful movement games as well as how to make learning toys out of throw-aways and recyclables. Some of the countries where she has given workshops are Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Micronesia, Figi, Nicaragua and Honduras
Barbara presently works on the Northern Mariana Islands of Saipan, Tinian and Rota.
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