July 2021 - Hidden Talents ABA

National Disability Independence Day

National Disability Independence Day commemorates the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) on July 26th, 1990. The ADA provides protection from employment discrimination as well as better access to goods, services, and communications for people with disabilities.

Activities for Autistic Kids

All children love activities, and autistic kids are no exception. But besides being fun and engaging, a variety of sensory, physical, and mentally stimulating activities hold an added bonus for autistic children. They can be used as an effective way to improve their attention span, self-confidence, and communication skills

Here, we’ve listed some of the best activities your autistic child will enjoy and benefit from.

Sensory Games for Autistic Children

Sensory bottle

Sensory bottles, sometimes also called discovery bottles or calm down bottles, are a great way to keep your autistic child focused and engaged. At the same time, they are useful tools for providing sensory regulation as they can help your child calm down after experiencing sensory overload

To make a sensory bottle, simply wash an old plastic bottle and fill it partially with water. Then add some food coloring, marbles, glitter, and beads, or customize it in any other way that will appeal to your child. Seal the lid in place using a hot glue gun. Let your child shake the bottle and enjoy the sensation of colorful parts slowly moving through the bottle. 

For inspiration on how to make sensory bottles for children with autism, check out the Sensory and Discovery Bottles board on Pinterest, where you can also share your own projects.

* This project is recommended for children ages 5 and up as the bottle may contain choking hazards. 

Make edible jewelry

Due to their coordination challenges and limited core strength and stability, children with autism often experience delays in the development of fine motor skills. Making edible jewelry will help your child hone those skills that require intricate hand and finger movements, while enjoying a fun activity. 

To make edible jewelry, start by taking a piece of string or shoestring licorice that is long enough to fit over your child’s head when tied. Encourage your child to thread some edible items on the string, such as the Fruit Loops cereal, Lifesavers Gummies and other colorful candy, marshmallows, or edible play dough. Tie the ends of the string together to make a necklace or bracelet. You can take this activity further by asking your child to recognize the colors of the items used or count the number of cereal or candy pieces on the string. 

Make tactile collage

Many children with autism spectrum disorder find the sensation of different textures overwhelming. If this is the case with your child, then making a tactile collage may be a great way to introduce them to a wide range of textures and help them deal with sensory issues. This activity is also useful for practicing cutting and improving your child’s fine motor skills.

To create a tactile collage, prepare cardboard or cardstock (the size can range anywhere from 7×9 inches to 14×20 for older children). Pour some glue in a small jar and let your child apply it with a brush to prevent their hands from getting sticky. They can glue a variety of materials like magazine clippings, small pieces of fabric, aluminum foil, glitter, string, felt, and puff paint. You can also ask your child to sort materials by colors and encourage them to talk about what they are doing to enhance their communication skills. 

Brain Activities for Autistic Kids

Matching games

Matching games are simple but effective educational activities where your child has to match words with pictures. These are perfect games for kids with autism who typically appreciate simplicity and order. Based on your child’s skill level and interests, you can use matching games to teach them about numbers, foods, colors, animals, or any other subject. 

You can download the free Matching Games for Autism app, or purchase Word to Picture Matching Cards specially designed for children with autism. 

Smell games

Children with autism are often sensitive to smells and may experience them more intensely than neurotypical children. Smell games are a fun activity that will not only let your child explore a variety of smells, but also help them improve memory and build communication skills. 

To make a smell game, fill small containers (such as painted jam jars) with fragrant ingredients like lavender, coffee, soap, lemon, rosemary, mint, rose petals, popcorn, and cinnamon sticks. If you are using a liquid, like vanilla essence for example, place a cotton ball in the container to soak up the fragrance. Just make sure to avoid any smells your child dislikes or is sensitive to. Fasten a piece of thin fabric on top of the container with a rubber band and ask your child to identify the different smells. 

Building Social Skill for an Autistic Child


Reading may help autistic children develop language and improve their cognitive skills. Children with autism spectrum disorder typically experience difficulties when it comes to reading comprehension and are usually better at identifying words than understanding their meaning. That’s why books with pictures and little text are the best way to get your child with autism interested in reading. 

To keep your child engaged, make sure to target their area of interest, whether it’s trains, pets, history, or any other subject. You can also encourage your child to enact the characters while reading the book to make the activity more fun. Or ask them how they would feel if they were different characters to teach them empathy skills and encourage interaction.

Sharing time

Children with autism often have little or no interest in the world around them and in sharing their experiences with others. Fortunately, there are many fun activities that can make it easier for your child to share their attention. You can play games such as “I Spy” that require you to look at the same object or ask your child to show you what they are drawing or playing with to improve their communication skills. Take time to play together with your child to encourage them to share toys, role-play, take turns, talk about their experience, and regulate emotions. 

Calming Activities for a Child with Autism

Fidget toys

Fidgets toys are designed to help children with autism focus, filter out the overwhelming sensory information, and remain calm in stressful situations. These toys can also be used to help ease transitions into new situations or activities and deal with routine changes, which is often a challenge for autistic kids. 

There is no shortage of fidget toys to choose from like tangle toys, stress-less gel balls, koosh balls, magic snakes, and more. A wide range of fidget toys and stress balls are available for purchase from National Autism Resources, Sensory Direct, and Amazon. When looking for a fidget toy, choose the one that allows for movement but isn’t too distracting so that it completely draws your child’s attention away.


Coloring pages are a great way to help your child with autism focus, build fine motor skills, learn new words, and practice taking turns and interacting with others. What’s more, coloring according to directions will help them learn to recognize colors and numbers, follow instructions, and work on task completion. If your child has fine motor skill challenges, consider using large or triangular-shaped crayons instead of regular ones. 

Websites like Special Learning House and All Kids Network offer a wide range of free printable coloring pages suitable for kids with autism. Some coloring books are specifically designed for autistic children, such as The Autism Coloring Book: I See Things Differently With My Superhero Brain, available on Amazon

Constructive Play For an Autistic Kid


Puzzles are an excellent way to provide your autistic child with a satisfying tactile sensation, help them improve focus and fine motor skills, in addition to having a calming effect when your child is feeling restless. Completing puzzles together with others and talking about what they’re doing can help enhance your child’s vocabulary and communication skills. 

Always make sure to choose a puzzle with a suitable difficulty level for your child. You can find a wide range of puzzles for autistic children at Autism-Products.com, National Autism Resources, as well as Autism Community Store

Building blocks

Playing with building blocks is one of the most popular activities among autistic children. Since the blocks come in limited shapes and sizes and the building process requires repetitive movements, kids with autism perceive this activity as structured and predictable. Building blocks can be highly beneficial for your child’s physical, cognitive, and social-emotional development, in addition to improving their fine motor skills. Furthermore, it encourages children to practice verbal and nonverbal communication skills, sharing with others, taking turns, and problem solving.

The STEM toy company Strictly Bricks offers a variety of building blocks in different sizes, colors, and textures, suitable for children with autism. Award-winning BizyBeez Magnetic Building Blocks is another great choice of building blocks for autistic kids.

Physical Play For an Autistic Child


Dancing is a fun and relaxing activity for children with autism. Dancing is beneficial not only when it comes to boosting your child’s body image and body awareness, but also for improving their concentration and memory, enhancing communication skills, increasing empathy, and developing the ability to adapt to different situations. 

Let your child start with free movement and move to the music any way they wish. Later on, try introducing movement prompt exercises where you ask them to dance fast or slow, freeze when the music stops, move only one part of the body, make large or small movements, and so on. Dancing to children’s songs with actions, like “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “Hokey Pokey,” or “Baby Shark” is a good way to practice following instructions and motor planning.


Children with autism spectrum disorder often have limited gross motor function, strength, and coordination. Exercising on a regular basis will allow your child not only to improve these skills and their physical health, but also to enjoy a variety of activities with friends and family. Physical activity can also enhance a general feeling of well-being and counterbalance depression and anxiety, in addition to improving your child’s learning and social behavior. Regular physical activity has even been shown to decrease repetitive behaviors like body rocking, spinning, and head-nodding in children with autism. 

You can make exercises enjoyable by playing games that encourage your child to move in different ways, for example, run, jump, hop, and skip, and play with a variety of equipment such as balls, bats, and racquets. A simple way to add some physical activity into your child’s daily routine is to walk to school and make regular trips to the playground. You can gradually expand the amount of time your child spends doing physical activities until they reach the recommended one hour of exercise per day. 

Obstacle course

Children with autism enjoy moving around and most will be happy to navigate indoor and outdoor obstacle courses. This activity can be designed to target a variety of motor and cognitive skills and include a wide range of activities from simple to more challenging. Obstacle courses are some of the best ways for your child to work on their balance, strength, gross motor skills, and coordination, while having fun. For children who have difficulties with motor planning and sequencing, this activity will provide them with an opportunity to practice completing tasks.

To make an obstacle course, you can use anything from mats and foam shapes to chairs, ladders, and hula hoops, or any other objects you may find in your home or garden. Incorporate activities such as bean bag tossing, throwing and catching a ball, and jumping ropes. You can ask your child to walk on uneven surfaces, stand or hop on one foot to practice balance, push or pull heavy items, do push ups or sit ups to increase strength, and do jumping jacks and run around cones to work on coordination. Whatever activities you choose, make sure to explain the course to your child in advance and give it a practice run. 

Autism and IQ

People with autism spectrum disorder were traditionally viewed as having low intelligence based on their verbal communication skills

However, autism is today considered to be a condition separate from intellectual disability. We know that autistic people can have a wide range of learning and thinking skills that can make them both severely challenged and gifted. 

In this article, we’ll help you get a better understanding of the complex link between autism and intelligence.

In What Areas Can Autism Affect a Person’s Day to Day Life?

For people with autism spectrum disorder and their families, day to day life is filled with numerous challenges. The condition is characterized by various degrees of learning difficulties. Although many people may be able to live independently, others need lifelong support and care. 

Some of the most common areas in which autism affects day-to-day life are communication, social interactions, and living skills. 

Verbal communication

Depending on where on the spectrum they fall, people with autism have various levels of communication abilities. Some have very limited speaking capacities or are not able to use language at all. They may have significant difficulties understanding what other people are saying. Non-verbal communication including hand gestures, eye contact, and facial expressions may also be challenging for individuals with autism who are unable to fully grasp body language.

Typical patterns of language use and behaviors in children and adults with autism include: 

  • Repetitive or rigid language, like saying things that have no meaning or repeating the same words, a condition known as echolalia 
  • Machine-like and monotonic speech
  • Speaking in a high-pitched or “sing-song” voice
  • Uneven language development, for instance, having an extensive vocabulary only within a specific area of interest
  • Limited nonverbal conversation skills, such as the inability to use gestures and facial expressions.

However, many autistic people have a rich vocabulary and can talk about specific subjects in great detail, even though they may still experience problems with verbal intonation and the rhythm of words and sentences.

Social interactions

One of the main defining characteristics of autism spectrum disorder is social dysfunction. People with autism often show little interest in the world around them and have a limited understanding of other people’s feelings and ideas. 

Autistic individuals frequently experience social interactions as unpredictable and frightening. For example, they may not understand the purpose of saying hello and goodbye, showing facial expressions, waiting for their turn to speak, or maintaining eye contact during conversation. As a consequence, they may find it difficult to maintain friendships, which can lead to further social isolation. 

Living skills

Everyday tasks such as self-care, home organization, cleaning, cooking, shopping, and transportation can be a challenge for autistic people. At the same time, daily living skills are indispensable for being able to live independently, rely less on others, as well as for improving self-esteem and quality of life in general. Research suggests that impairments in daily living skills in individuals with autism are directly related to their cognitive abilities and can often improve throughout childhood and adolescence.

Other challenges

Several other issues can make the normal day-to-day functioning of autistic individuals difficult:

Sensory overload

Most people with autism spectrum disorder are affected by sensory overload. Crowds, excessive noise, bright lights, and strong tastes and smells may feel overwhelming and disruptive because they provide more sensory input than the autistic brain can process.

Emotional sensitivity

Autistic people frequently struggle to control their emotions in new and unpredictable situations and transition to another activity or setting. These stressful situations may trigger unusually intense emotional reactions compared to their neurotypical peers.

Resistance to change

Individuals with autism are generally resistant to change and prefer familiar situations and activities. Any disruption in their routines could cause frustration and anger.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder and the issues mentioned above are consequences of the way different parts of the brain form and connect to one another.

What Parts of the Brain are Affected by Autism?

Research shows that some parts of the brain are structurally different in autistic than non-autistic people. For example, children and adolescents with autism have an enlarged hippocampus, the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. Furthermore, the size of the amygdala—the region of the brain that deals with emotions—also differs in people with autism and neurotypical individuals. The cortex, the brain’s outer layer, seems to have a different pattern of thickness in people with and without autism.

One of the key brain regions affected by autism is the cerebellum, the brain structure that plays a crucial role in cognition and social interactions. Autistic individuals are known to have decreased amounts of gray matter in parts of the cerebellum. This region of the brain is also indispensable for movement and learning motor skills, which may explain challenges with coordination and fine and gross motor skills typical for autism spectrum disorder.

However, the way that these differences in brain structure affect autism and yield autistic savants or people with below-average intelligence is still not fully understood.

Does family background contribute towards autism?

Studies show that children in families with a history of brain conditions are at increased risk of autism. The more closely related the family members with these conditions, the greater the chances of having autism. Moreover, the odds increase if there are other children with autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or intellectual disability in the family, or if a parent has schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, anxiety, or depression. 

Nevertheless, it is only possible to identify a specific genetic cause of autism in around 15% of cases. Brain development is influenced by a complex combination of genetic and environmental factors. In other words, if a person is genetically predisposed to autism, environmental elements will increase their risk of having the condition.

Autism prevalence in the United States

An estimated 222 per 10,000 children in the United States were diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in 2020. This is one of the highest autism prevalence rates in the world, after Hong Kong and South Korea. 

An earlier study suggested that some ethnic groups seemed to be more predisposed to autism than others. The study found an increased risk of being diagnosed with autism in children of American-born Hispanic and African American mothers as well as African American, Central or South American, Filipino, and Vietnamese foreign-born mothers. 

However, newer research has demonstrated that the prevalence of autism is in fact very similar among racial groups. The earlier disparity might have been due to the fact that diagnostic practices and services are not equally available to different ethnic groups, in addition to certain environmental factors.

Types of IQ

The intelligence quotient (IQ) is a measure of human intelligence, which is commonly evaluated with the help of Wechsler scales in studies on autism. Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and Wechsler Intelligence Scales for Children (WISC) are used to measure a combination of performance and verbal intelligence in autistic children and adults. The results can help determine the areas in which individual support plans and treatment programs should be developed for these individuals.

Performance IQ (PIQ)

Nonverbal intelligence is the ability to analyze information and solve problems using visual, practical reasoning. The performance or nonverbal IQ is a measure of intelligence that doesn’t require the use of words or language. It measures a person’s nonverbal reasoning, spatial processing skills, attention to detail, and hand-eye coordination skills.

Verbal IQ (VIQ)

Verbal IQ is the ability to analyze information and solve problems using language-based reasoning. This reasoning involves reading or listening to words, writing, and engaging in a conversation. Verbal intelligence measures verbal reasoning, comprehension of verbal information, and the ability to express knowledge through spoken language

Intellectual disability measured by IQ scores may vary depending on the type of test used. Non-verbal children, for example, can obtain low scores on verbal IQ tests but may score at an age-appropriate level on tests of spatial intelligence. In general, autistic individuals perform better on performance IQ than verbal IQ tests, consistent with the cognitive and social deficits of autism. 

Autistic individuals with high IQ typically underperform on cognitive tests compared to neurotypical adults or children in the same IQ range. At the same time, people with autism spectrum disorder who have low IQ perform similarly to their neurotypical counterparts. Research suggests that cognitive deficits in high-IQ autistic people may have underlying causes that are not rooted in the condition itself.

Is IQ related to the range of function of an autistic person?

The intelligence and range of function in individuals with autism are highly but not perfectly correlated. IQ scores generally relate to communication skills and adapting to daily life, however, they are not exact indicators of cognitive functioning and the ability of a person with autism to navigate the day to day life. Studies show that many people with autism have lower life skills than what would be expected given their cognitive abilities. 

This is why taking the intelligence quotient to categorize autistic individuals can be misleading. An individual’s level of functioning can be more impacted by underlying mental health issues, such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), substance abuse, gastrointestinal issues, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), depression, and anxiety, than by IQ. 

Teaching The Way They Can Learn

AT Hidden Talents, we believe that Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the key to helping children on the autism spectrum succeed. Our three step process works to deliver personalized and comprehensive treatment. Learn more about our services at hiddentalentsaba.com