Let’s Play! ASD and the Importance of Play

In our society play is viewed as a leisure activity, something to be done once our work is finished. However, the value of play is far greater than we think. Mr. Rogers had this to say about it.

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.” Fred Rogers

“Dr. Stuart Brown says that children have a lot to learn from what he calls this ‘state of being,’ including empathy, how to communicate with others, and how to roll with the punches.” It is easy to see why play is often the key to helping kids with autism become more comfortable with the tasks expected of them. Kids with ASD may need a little more structure to their play, but the benefits are the same. When we play, we learn. We can see the value of play for kids, but what about adults?

In the adult world, play becomes a bit rarer. If someone perceives you as playing when there is “work to be done” you may be spoken to about your work ethic. But guess what? Adults need to play too! When we’re stuck on a problem having a bit of fun can be just the thing to get the mind stirring. It is a key to creativity. And the benefits continue from there. When we have fun we connect with others. We create positive experiences. We also learn new skills with greater ease, since stress is lessened.

How does play reduce stress? People who play view everyday situations as more of a game and are able to move on from frustrating circumstances rather than remain stuck in those negative emotions. Being able to move on from a frustrating situation is a skill people with autism need assistance with. Even as adults people with ASD benefit from the power of play.

At work, play can create more productive teams. At home, play can create closer relationships. Lynn Barnett, a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has this to say “At work, play has been found to speed up learning, enhance productivity and increase job satisfaction; and at home, playing together, like going to a movie or a concert, can enhance bonding and communication.” Maybe the answer to understanding and accepting people with autism is simply to play.

Finally, play is a basic daily need for all of us, young and old, neuro-typical and autistic. We need a daily dose of fun as much as we need sleep. Without it, people become grouchy, inflexible, and develop an overall bad attitude towards life. Work and play are not opposites. They are not mutually exclusive. Work is play, and play is work.

So why not make play a priority? Here are 5 ways to add some fun to your life

  1. Hang out with others, play games
  2. Enjoy the moment you are in.
  3. Write a story or poem
  4. Be curious. Amuse your self with everyday observations.
  5. Paint

There are so many ways to include a little fun in your day. The benefits are well worth it, so let’s play!

Rebecca J. Weaver is a Certified Autism Specialist at Independent with Autism, working to empower individuals with ASD. Need help creating your success strategies? Check out IndependentwithAutism.com for more information.

Sources:

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesnt-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too

http://www.nifplay.org/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/why-its-good-for-grown-ups-to-go-play/2017/05/19/99810292-fd1f-11e6-8ebe-6e0dbe4f2bca_story.html?utm_term=.056df7ad77ec

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/262328121_The_Playful_Advantage_How_Playfulness_Enhances_Coping_with_Stress

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311631718_A_new_structural_model_for_the_study_of_adult_playfulness_Assessment_and_exploration_of_an_understudied_individual_differences_variable

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