It’s OK to Change the Rules – a guest blog post from SimplyFun

It’s OK to Change the Rules

Before you read any further I want you to hold up your hand and take this pledge!  I can and will change the rules to games!

I’m not sure why this is such a blocker for us, but it is an approach that you need to adopt when thinking about playing games with your special needs kids.  Games that you purchase come with a predefined set of steps that are often geared toward a specific age or skill set.  It is a one size fits all approach that works in the mass market, but if you have a special needs child within your care…it probably doesn’t fit you.  Many will simply avoid game play as being too challenging to deal with and in so doing unfortunately deprive the special needs child of the joy of interactive play with others.  Regardless of our skill set, we all need that positive social experience, the feeling of fitting in and joining in the fun.  So let’s not let a set of rules get in the way of creating those special moments.  Let’s identify some ways that you can make game play fit into your special needs program.

While there are many different special needs challenges, let’s focus on just a few with some suggestions on how play can be modified or enhanced to make game time productive and fun!

Your child has difficulty with understanding complex verbal directions:

  • Break down the rules into very small steps and eliminate game complexity to stay focused on the basic game flow.
  • Don’t go through all the rules at once.  Work through them as game play progresses
  • Ask the child to show you what to do next to see if they comprehend the rules.
  • Use visual or physical actions to describe what is happening on the game board.

Your child has a short attention span:

  • Take frequent breaks during the game play or shorten the round by reducing the number of turns or cards to play.
  • Use ‘when…then’ phrases.  For example:  When you take your turn, then I’ll let you play with your toy.
  • Frequently remind the child of the goal of the game.  For example:  You are very close to the end or you only need to go this far.

Your child has difficulty connecting with other players:

  • Look at the game and not the other players.
  • Hold the object being talked about close to the mouth to draw attention to the object.
  • Use unusual or exaggerated inflection to communicate something in the game to attract the child’s attention.

Your child has difficulty with sequencing multi-step actions:

  • Use physical actions to walk through the sequence numerous times.
  • Add concrete materials (objects or cards) that depict the actions so that child can hold them and position them to practice the sequence

These are just a few suggestions to help you make game play accessible to children of all skill levels. As one of the key ways that we learn, it is important that we find ways to regularly include game play into the learning process.  And in many cases it may be the perfect way to work on areas like communication and attention that are blockers to more structured learning and relationships.  Play truly is for everyone and we give you absolute permission to change those rules and get playing with your special needs kids!


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