It seems lately that autism is making headlines more and more. Maybe that is because the neuro-developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and problems with social interactions is becoming an especially meaningful matter to a growing number of Hollywood stars whose children have autism. The list reads like a Blockbuster movie marquee: Jenny McCarthy, Aidan Quinn, Gary Cole, Joe Mantegna.
The good news is this celebrity focus has drawn attention to this childhood disease of the decade. All of the famous stars all of whom have become very active in autism-related organizations.
But star or not, grappling with autism—a brain disorder that affects one in 150 children and is four times more likely to afflict boys than girls, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—parent/child “play time,” is a tricky proposition. With autism number growing, the need for innovative educational and other programs to bring a little adventure and fun into the lives of these families is greater than ever.
“There is great hope for families who are determined to live a full and balanced family life, and have fun with their children, says Tali Field Berman, co-author of Play to Grow! Over 200 Games Designed to Help Your Special Child Develop Fundamental Social Skills, and founder of Meir: Autism Treatment Center.
The success of Play to Grow’s model lies in the premise that “learning and treatment for children with autism doesn’t have to be all work and no play,” says Berman. “Parents and teachers can’t lose sight that autistic children also enjoy playing with others and play helps bring out the beauty and gifts inside the child.”
The book is designed to educate parents and teachers and help them tap into the joy of play and to create opportunities not just for the child with autism, but to reconnect the whole family to participate in play activities together.
“Play can be a powerful way to connect the entire family, and especially to help include the other siblings so that all the energy isn’t just going to the child with autism,” says Berman. “Play allows you to tap into the bright light inside the child, and it gives parents the opportunity to show the child’s siblings a side of their brother or sister they don’t often get to see.”
Through Play to Grow, families will find invaluable ideas and tips based on a leading international teaching method—The Son-Rise Program Developmental Model—this user-friendly book contains 201 fun, creative, and simple-to-prepare games. In a reader-friendly workbook format, it’s an incredibly rich manual and springboard for creative new ideas for parents to help teach and have fun with their kids with autism.
The games are divided according to the five stages of development outlined in the Son-Rise Developmental Model and each game addresses a very specific goal listed within each stage. All parents and professionals need to do is to locate their child’s level on the development model and use Play to Grow! as their guide.
All the games are tried-and-true, kid and parent tested, and are designed to inspire any child with common motivators, such as humor, anticipation, music and physical stimulation. Many games also have tips and variations so it can be adapted for children with different interests.
Play to Grow! is not only a list of games, it is also a guide for parents and professionals on how to execute the games effectively. The book outlines the eight essential elements (both relating to attitude and technique) that contribute to successful playing. It also includes the “ideal recipe” in making up new games so that parents and professionals can use this book as a springboard to invent games of their own. Every detail is taken into consideration to help make play most successful, including how to help kids who are easily distracted stay focused in your game.
“Play to Grow provides the tools for parents to tap into the incredible power that can change the course of the lives for children with autism,” says Bryn N. Hogan, a teacher and Executive Director for the Autism Treatment Center of America, based in Sheffield, MA and parent of a child with special needs.
Berman, a mom of three, and co-author Abby Rappaport, have collectively spent more than twenty years working on the frontlines with hundreds of children with autism and other special needs. The book is the result of their passion, drive, and commitment to bring hope and help into the lives of families whose children have special needs. The authors were inspired by their experiences working with parents and team members who invested an incredible amount of energy into creating customized games for their children.
“It is our hope that this manual of games will help create opportunities for deep and meaningful interaction with your child or the child you are working with,” say the authors.