Playing outside is one of the core experiences we all remember from childhood, but all too often it doesn’t happen for kids with special needs like Asperger’s, autism and ADHD. And that’s really a shame, because outdoor play is often the easiest way for all sorts of diverse personalities, abilities, and ages to interact.
School politics can get very specific, with each child interacting with only the chosen few in a social clique. Different ages, groups and genders rarely mix at school. But kids aren’t quite so particular when it comes to neighborhood play. A lot of that just comes from opportunity. In neighborhood play, there just aren’t so many kids to choose from. It’s not uncommon for neighbors who’d never talk at school to spend days together at home, having a great time. There’s nothing wrong with this. Schools can be about cliques, but home can be much more open. Not every neighborhood friend has to turn into a best friend at school.
The great thing about outdoor play is that it’s unstructured. There aren’t rules like there might be in team sports, there aren’t even goals or objectives. Kids can just run around, invent new games and be creative. And that’s where kids with ADHD and ASDs can really shine. Their creativity and energy may make these kids the highly sought after playmates.
Why don’t you give it a try? Make sure your children are spending some time in the front yard where the neighbors can find them. Pay attention to where other kids live. Then, maybe your child can take the plunge. Parents have to step back here, but it’s easy to coach your child. Just ring the doorbell, ask for the child and say something really basic like, “Hi, I’m Matthew. Do you want to come out and play?” That’s it. That may be all it take for your child to interact with peers, spend time outside, and probably have a great time.
Patricia Robinson MFT
I'm a licensed therapist in Danville, California and a coach for Asperger's and ADHD nationwide. I work with individuals of all ages who have special needs, like Autism Spectrum Disorders, ADD, ADHD, and the family members and partners of special needs individuals.