The Autism Society Event and Education Recordings Archive

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5483 Building Family Recreational Activities

Saturday, July 9, 2011: 10:45 AM-12:00 PM
Sun 5-6 (Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center)
This presentation will educate the attendees "soup to nuts" on how to develop, plan, implement and fund a family peer-based recreational program. Whether indoor or out, sports, arts, or strictly social skills development, we will explore options for service delivery, outcomes for the participants, and outcomes to each family member.This session is based on a paper written by the presenter that can be found at Children with autism and related disorders have the unique ability to model both behaviors and actions. This has been observed at almost every level of functioning, across a wide variety of environments, and with a wide variety of people. Many children diagnosed with autism display “echolalia”(repeating or parroting). This in itself can be hampering to positive development but if used appropriately can be very instructive and educational to the student or individual. For example, A child is watching a television program and repeats everything he/she hears. This may go on for weeks; the child has instant recall of a list of characters or credits that they heard on a show. At any given time the child might blurt out this information, at the dinner table, while in school, or wherever the impulse strikes. If we work to develop a very specialized teaching environment , based on a certain amount of peer interaction, with familiar people we can utilize echolalia in a positive way. For example, we took one child to a basketball game. He was encouraged to root for the home team by shouting “Lets Go Team!” by the middle of the game the child was independently using this cheer in an appropriate manner. Of course this does not apply to all children with autism. Well it is the same with actions. Children with autism seem to develop the unique ability to watch and copy.  NYFAC has sought to build on these inner talents by utilizing a family based approach within its’ recreational programming.

All NYFAC recreational programming are considered a “family affair”. Typically developing siblings, and other family members, including  parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts are encouraged to participate in all areas of the program. In this way we can teach, support and encourage positive behaviors, actions, and verbalizations from the child affected by autism.

NYFAC recreational programming does not stop there. There are huge benefits to all those who participate in this process.

Typical Developing siblings- These children often feel “left out” of the teaching process. Many children we interview say that they feel “neglected” or “alone” when it comes to their special needs sibling. In our recreational programs we rely on  peer level teaching and the interaction of typically  developing children in the teaching process.  These siblings are left with a feeling of not only being included in the process but of having a meaningful contribution to the success of their sibling. One  young girl we observed was overjoyed when her brother was able to hit a tennis ball over the net unassisted. She yelled out “See I knew he could do it!” Another young boy was seen to actually go over and assist his sibling in hitting a baseball of the tee. The parents comment, “We never saw him helping like this before!”

Overall the inclusion of typically developing children has proved over and over again to be an essential part of the learning process for children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. 

Parents- Very often parents are left to stand on the sidelines when it comes to their “special needs” child. While at therapists office, or while at school, parents are generally not included in these processes. We as parents have had to become “parent experts” and very often are the only ones who know what is best or appropriate for our children. NYFAC recreational programming not only includes parents in the teaching process but mandates it. There is nothing more special than the look on a fathers face when his son (with autism) is able to hit the baseball and run to first base unassisted. (I should know I am the parent of a beautiful eight year old with autism named Anthony). How do you measure the feeling that any parent has when they see any child achieve? Well multiply that by ten because most times these children would not have the opportunity to engage in any of these structured recreational activities.

On another front, parents have an opportunity to meet each other, make friends, and develop bonds that often result in positive friendships.

Learning Objectives:

  • Understand the benefits to the affected individual
  • Increasing Social Skills through play
  • Building support networks for families through recreation
  • Finding the funding and linkages to create the program
  • How to ensure quality assurance through surveys, questionaires and outcomes

Content Area: Social Skills


Andrew Baumann, M.A., ICADC, FAPA
President and CEO
New York Families for Autistic Children

Andrew Baumann is currently President and CEO of New York Families for Autistic Children. Andrew serves on NY Governor Patterson's Task Force for Autism, is a board member of the Autism Society, and is a charter member of the World Autism Organization. He is the proud father of twin boys Andrew and Anthony (who has autism) and a daughter, Amanda.