10 Autumn Activities for Kids with Autism
September 19, 2022
September 19, 2022
The changing of the seasons provides some ultimate sensory experiences and the transition to autumn is one of our favorites. Pumpkin spice lattes, pecan pie, colorful leaves, fall football and Halloween costumes are just a few of the perks. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have a tough time understanding the shift in seasons and all its elements (especially that pesky time change!), but there are a few fun ways to help them enjoy everything autumn has to offer.
1. Visit a pumpkin patch
It wouldn’t be autumn without pumpkins, and while it is getting easier to purchase different varieties at the grocery store, not much beats getting the full experience at the pumpkin patch. If your little one has sensory sensitivities or is overwhelmed by crowds or big spaces, try visiting a small street-side display on a slow day. If you are feeling a bit more adventurous, there are some pretty spectacular setups we found in Colorado, Ohio and Arizona that are complete with corn mazes, petting zoos, play areas and more. Whichever route you choose, let your child explore the various colors, shapes and sizes before picking out a pumpkin (or two) to take home, and don’t forget the photo op.
2. Carve pumpkins
Whether or not your kiddo picks out a pumpkin or someone else brings it home, this is a fun way to get in the Halloween spirit while incorporating all senses. Encourage your child to view and appreciate all its characteristics, from the not-so-perfect round edges to the “beauty marks.” Once he or she is ready to dig in, talk about the slimy, sticky feeling on the inside, the sweet scent, and the sounds it makes when squishing it between fingers. Let your child draw or have a say in what to carve into the pumpkin (we’re partial to a puzzle piece!) and then bring it to life. Finally, take part in the final sense by cooking and tasting the pumpkin seeds or serving up a slice of pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread on the side.
3. Pick apples
The fall season aligns with so many of our other favorite “seasons,” including apple season! This is a wonderful activity for the whole family, so if you are lucky enough to live near an orchard – or travel to one – take advantage of the opportunity. It is exciting for kids to learn where their fruit comes from have the chance to choose what they will eat. They will experience all the colorful shapes, sights and sounds in nature, plus the scents and tastes are delicious, of course. As a bonus, many orchards like those in Georgia and Indiana offer farm activities like tractor rides and homemade treats to take home, such as pies, jams and cider.
4. Make your own apple stamps
Did you bring home too many apples to eat? Slice one or two in half to create your own apple-shaped “stamps.” Your kid will have fun dipping them in various colors of paint to design some fall-themed artwork that would make a great start to cards for Thanksgiving.
5. Rake leaves
This sounds like a chore, but trust us, the way we envision it, it’s not. That’s because the best part comes after you rake them into a pile…time to jump on top! Do it together and practice taking turns. Hear and feel the crunching of the dried leaves. Watch as you throw them in the air and let gravity do its part as they float back down. When you’ve finally had enough, rake them into once last pile before working together to place them in a compost bin. The activity is great at stimulating the senses, but it is also a good chance to work on following directions.
6. Embark on a treasure hunt
The outdoors are a sensory playground, especially in autumn. Head out on a treasure hunt with your kiddo to look for items traditionally found in fall and use it as an opportunity to talk about the transition of the season. Seek out a red leaf, yellow leaf, acorn, pine cone, pine needles and any other seasonal features in your area. Don’t forget to discuss each one and what makes it interesting or special.
7. Roast marshmallows
Enjoying s’mores is of course delicious any time of year, but there is something about the fall weather that welcomes the roasting of marshmallows. Again, this activity is all about engaging (and discussing) each of those senses. If the idea of an open fire makes you nervous, other options are to heat them over a small charcoal grill or even roast in the oven for the same gooey taste. Before jumping all in on this one, make sure your child does not have any swallowing-related feeding challenges.
8. Go on a hayride
This is the time of year with the best weather for a hayride. The cool vehicle, big hay bales, bumpy ride and wind in the face make it an activity like nonother. Many places that offer hayrides have other children’s activities, like some of the spots we found in Kentucky and the West Coast of Florida that have bounce houses or giant sandboxes filled with corn. A hayride is not for everyone, as those with sensory challenges may not enjoy it. If crowds pose an issue, opt to watch versus ride, or call ahead to see if you can arrange a private ride on an off day that is tailored for your family. There are tons of haunted hayrides this time of year, so whichever route you choose, make sure your tickets get you on a kid-friendly version for your little ones.
9. Bake seasonal treats
There are ways to incorporate kids into baking at almost any age or skill level. Expect a mess and understand the final product may not be what you intended (think “Nailed It” versus “The Great British Baking Show”), but giving a child a chance in the kitchen can be a lot of fun and a great learning experience. Allow them to pour, stir and maybe even portion it. Start small with few or simple ingredients and watch their eyes light up when they get to eat what they made. Like raking leaves, this project allows them to practice turn-taking and following directions.
10. Create a fall sensory bin
Mini pumpkins, bumpy gourds, dried corn on the cob, beans, corn husks, popping corn kernels…your options for an autumn-themed sensory bin are endless. Fill up the container with your chosen goods, then add a variety of spoons, tongs and cups to fill. While your kiddo is busy scooping, pouring and grabbing, talk to him or her about the texture and colors and how they are associated with the season. This activity is great for children learning to use the pincher grasp and master the skill of scooping.
Tried these and ready for more? Get even more year-round, easy sensory activities on the Hopebridge blog.