Interview Barbara Sher: Develop Social and Motor Skills in Children with Autism or Sensory Issues

Interview Barbara Sher: Develop Social and Motor Skills in Children with Autism or Sensory Issues

One of the first things we read on Barbara Sher’s web site is this, “Barbara’s books, CDs and workshops are invaluable resources to help your child reach his or her full potential.”  Our readers, parents and educators mostly, will benefit greatly from learning about Barbara Sher and her parenting  and teaching resources to develop social and motor skills in children with autism or sensory processing disorder.

Barbara Sher, also known as the “Games Lady”,  is the author of nine books on games and one musical CD on activities for children. Her books have been translated into eight languages so far (Italian, French, Spanish, Chinese, Estonian, Arabic, Russian and Swedish).

Read our review of 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.

28 Instant Songames by Barbara Sher  to develop social and motor skills The publisher, Future Horizons, sent me Barbara Sher’s music CD entitled 28 INSTANT Songames: Fun-Filled Activities for Kids 3-8 to review. In my review, found here,  I wrote, “I am certain that all young children, their parents, educators, and therapists will often want to include these engaging, musical games in their daily routines. 28 INSTANT Songames by Barbara, also known as the “Games Lady”, includes a CD and a 48-page booklet. This delightful, inclusion friendly, non-competitive teaching tool is timeless and only limited by the imagination of the users.”

Let us learn more about Barbara Sher, OTR.

Lorna: Welcome to our Author Interview Series. Congratulations on all the resources you have written. Tell us about your work and what part of your work you enjoy the most.

>> Barbara Sher >>I work in Head Start Centers and private homes on three different islands. The children are 3-5 years old needing early intervention. My emphasis is helping these children to be included by doing activities with all the children in the classroom or siblings in the house with an emphasis on the skill that the child with challenges needs

Lorna: Explain how and why Barbara Sher, the pediatric occupational therapist, decided to write books? Will there be others?

>> Barbara Sher >> I mainly wrote books so I wouldn’t have to reinvent my own wheel. My own weird little niche in this life seems to be to be able to easily come up with ideas for games that target different skills. Sometimes I forget my own games so I wanted to write them all down. Each child is unique so there are a large variety of games and novelty is a good way to engage attention so the more games, the merrier! I have a new book coming out in June. I have ten books in eight languages but even today, I did two newly thought of games to accomplish specific tasks.

(In one game, for example, we wanted to know if this child with Autism knew the names of any of his classmates. In the game, each child has a turn to stand in front of the classmates and note who is sitting where. Then that child is blindfolded and asked to find a specific named child and give him or her a bottle. If anyone has trouble, the named child is allowed to say “I’m here” or any auditory clue. The kids loved it and did great, including the child on the spectrum)

Self-esteem Games by Barbara Sher  to develop social and motor skills Lorna: Which of your books are your favorites? What comments do you hear about your books that make the writing process all worthwhile?

>> Barbara Sher >>I guess that like asking a mom which child is her favorite when she loves them all for different reasons. My first book which I wrote in 1980, EXTRAORDINARY PLAY WITH ORDINARY THINGS has a place in my heart because I was pleased that anyone could take almost any material—boxes, newspaper, milk cartons and find a chapter devoted to games with that material.

SELF–ESTEEM GAMES my biggest seller pleases me because it has so many ways to help children feel good about themselves. ATTENTION GAMES I liked because it helps people understand more than one kind of attention and they can appreciate what kind their child has and help them develop both. SMART PLAY is such easy ways to teach basic academics with stuff around the house which I used with my own kids. EARLY INTERVENTION GAMES pleases me because it really incorporates kids on the spectrum to join in the others and grew out of the “social club” and “aqua therapy” that I ran for children on the spectrum. PLAYFUL MOMENTS came from cartoons that were in a local paper to give parents quick spontaneous games. But, I think Spirit Games by Barbara Sher  to develop social and motor skills SPIRIT GAMES may be the dearest to me because it also includes games moms can do too. Games I play. I figure If you want a happy child, you need to feel good yourself.

As for feedback that makes me feel good. It’s when parents, tell me how much fun their children or whole family had playing one of my games. And when a teacher gives me the feedback on a game she plays in the classroom that the kids love and learn from. But I guess what is best is just watching children laughing and enjoying a game.

Lorna: I read that you give numerous national and international workshops. Do you still do this? What topics do the workshops usually cover?

>> Barbara Sher >>I do still do this. My last international workshops were in Norway, England and Canada. Previous workshops ran the gamut from Vietnam to Nicaragua. My workshops are about the power of play. The participants play many of the learning games themselves to help them remember them by using muscle memory. I also like to have people bring in recyclable materials and make toys or games that teach specific skills so everyone is empowered to make their own.

Lorna: For a number of years you have lived and worked on the Northern Mariana islands of Saipan, Rota and Tinian. Do parents in North America have the same concerns about their children as the parents in the part of the world where you now live?

>> Barbara Sher >> Absolutely. Parents everywhere want their child to learn skills so they can be as independent and thrive as much as possible. They also want their child to enjoy their lives and have their strengths noticed and their weaknesses strengthened

Lorna: You are a strong advocate of the “Power of Play”. Explain why PLAY is so important to children.

>> Barbara Sher >> Play is how children learn. They try out ideas and experience situations so that they can understand them. Most importantly research has shown that when children are engaged in activities they are enjoying, there are actual new synapses developing and enlarging their brain. And isn’t that the point of learning?

Early Intervention Games to develop social and motor skills Lorna: When I read you recommend making learning toys out of recyclables, it reminded me of another author-occupational therapist, I interviewed.  It was Barbara Smith about her book The Recycling Occupational Therapist: Hundreds of Simple Therapy Materials You Can Make. It is good for parents to know that they can make simple learning toys from items they can reuse.  One of your books suggests activities using simply newspapers, socks and hula-hoops! Please elaborate.

>> Barbara Sher >> Every book I ever write, starting with my first to my last only use materials that are easily gotten. It just makes good sense.

My last book EARLY INTERVENTION GAMES has many games that use recyclable materials

My new book THE WHOLE SPECTRUM OF SENSORY, MOTOR AND SOCIAL GAMES that I wrote with Karen Beardsley, another O.T.  puts even more emphasis on easily found materials. One aspect of the book shows how you can walk into a classroom with a basket of empty water bottles and play ten different games that will enthrall the kids while teaching them skills. Karen’s chapter has so many ideas for fun therapy games to do at home and good advise for the home therapist. There are also many ideas for spontaneous games parents can do in potentially challenging situations such as waiting at a restaurant or walking to the parking lot. This new book also has many personal stories about working and living with children, including my own when they were young. I think people will enjoy the stories as well as the many new game ideas

Smart Play by Barbara SherLorna: Thank you so much for participating in our Author Interview Series.  Please give us your links to follow you and where to buy your books, CD, and how to attend your workshops.

>> Barbara Sher >> My books and CD are available at any on-line store such as or Barnes & You can find or order them from any bookstore. My website is and links to my products and workshops. The site also has a place to get a free game idea designed for your child. If you put down the child’s interest and areas that need work, it is fun for me to design a game or refer to a game that I think would work well.

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This post was written by Lorna
Lorna d’Entremont: Co-owner of SentioLife Solutions, Ltd. the company behind KidCompanions Chewelry (2007) and SentioCHEWS (2013), mother of three, grandma of 5 and wife. She is a retired teacher and special needs advocate. Throughout she has taught all levels from grade 2 to grade 9. Lorna loved teaching and enjoyed seeing the students progress in the school system. During her 30 year career she took a few years off to raise her three children.