Improving Social Awareness through Games
Information provided by: Ms. Teresa Ng (Autism Partnership Senior Case Supervisor)
Social awareness is an importance piece in social skills. It involves discriminating and understanding social cues. For example, recognizing social communication signals, identifying preferences and non-preferences of others’, being aware of others’ emotions etc. It functions as prerequisite for other social skills. A person needs to be aware of and understand what is going on in his/her environment in order for him/her to respond correspondingly. Moreover, it increases naturalistic learning opportunities. If a student is more tuned in to his/her social environment, it is more likely that he/she can pick up something new, whether social or other skills, without our directions, which in turn facilitates self-learning.
Undoubtedly, people learn better when teaching is fun and meaningful. Below is some game ideas that can promote social awareness for young children with ASD.
This game requires players to take turn to imitate each other. The person who is copied by others (the leader) can follow visual or vocal instructions to perform or make different actions/expressions/sounds/phrases. For players who are more capable, they can come up with their own ideas as well. If players are able to copy multiple actions, each segment can involve more than one action and the leader needs to switch actions based on the response of the other players.
Treasure Hunt (Silence Version)
There are two players in this game. One is responsible to find hidden treasure while the other one gives non-vocal signals e.g., nod, thumb up, head shaking, and crossing arms in the air etc. to indicate the accuracy of the other player’s direction and location. Non-vocal signals are better than vocal ones because they require the players to check in with each other constantly, by which enhance their social awareness.
This game is quite self-explanatory. The ‘delivery person’ needs to bring various items to different persons based on an order list. The list can be presented in words or pictures, depending on the skill level of the player. An alternative version of this game requires the ‘delivery person’ to take orders from ‘customers’, either in written or pictorial format prior to delivery. To further increase difficulty level of this game, the ‘customers’ can be scattered in different places so that the ‘delivery person’ needs to put more effort in locating them.
Typically, Charade involves a player drawing a card from a deck, which may contain things such as movie name, action, name of celebrity etc., and acting out those things without using words or sounds for others to guess what they are. To play this game with children with ASD, we often need to simplify the game by presenting the context in picture or simple writing, and selecting items that can be acted out easily, for example animals and daily actions.
The above games are by no means any kinds of remedy for social awareness and there is no fixed way to teach social skills. However, if we are just a little more creative, learning experience can be more successful and enjoyable for both ourselves and the students as well.