Activities for Autistic Teens: 10 Ideas for Family Fun

Oct 10, 2023 | Environments, Family, Neurodivergence

If you’re a parent or caregiver seeking fun activities for Autistic teens and their family can relish, look no further!

Here’s a curated list of activities that balance sensory stimulation, creativity, and family bonding:

  1. Digital Scavenger Hunt: Go for a walk in your local park or neighborhood with a list of specific items or landmarks to take pictures of with a smartphone or camera. This blends the digital appeal many teens love with the benefits of outdoor activity. It also allows for easy-paced interaction and encourages observation. Don’t want to creat your own? The “Seek” App from iNaturalist has preset nature scavenger hunts. 
  2. Gardening Together: Working with plants provides multi-sensory stimulation – from the feel of the soil to the colors of flowers. Allocate a small plot or even just a container garden for your teen. This is a wonderful way to bond, teach responsibility, and engage the senses.
  3. Dance Party: Who said you need to hit the clubs to dance? Convert your living room into a dance floor. To cater to sensory needs, consider a silent disco where each person wears headphones and dances at their preferred volume level. Want to increase the difficulty for the adults? Let your teen teach you a trending dance from TikTok! 
  4. Art and Craft Day: From pottery to DIY t-shirt designs, creating something together is always special. Choose materials that your teen finds tactilely pleasing and watch creativity flourish. This also offers an opportunity to develop fine motor skills.
  5. Nature Picnics: Choose a quiet spot in nature, perhaps by a calm lake or a less frequented park. Pack a sensory-friendly meal, maybe some stim toys, and have a relaxing time enjoying nature. Bird-watching can also be integrated into this.
  6. Interactive Video Games: Going digital might seem like an overly obvious choice when picking activities for Autistic teens, but there’s nothing wrong with being predictable! Opt for co-op video games that the entire family can participate in. Games like Minecraft offer creativity without sensory overload. It’s also an opportunity for the family to enter and appreciate the digital world of their Autistic teen.
  7. Cook Together: Preparing a meal involves multiple sensory experiences. From choosing recipes, shopping for ingredients (at the store or just use a delivery app!), to the actual cooking process – it’s a sequence of tasks that can be calming and rewarding. Plus, it teaches valuable life skills. Let your teen pick the menu and see where the adventure takes you! 
  8. Family Karaoke: Music can be therapeutic. Singing along to favorite tunes or even just listening can be a great way to bond. It allows for self-expression and can be easily controlled to ensure it doesn’t become over-stimulating.
  9. Board Game Nights: Board games can offer a structured yet fun way to spend time together. Games that require strategic thinking, like chess or Settlers of Catan, can be both engaging and cognitive skill-enhancing.
  10. Build Together: Whether it’s Lego, model kits, or a DIY treehouse project, building something as a family is both fun and educational. It offers opportunities for problem-solving, creativity, and teamwork.

Finding activities for Autistic teens that cater to their sensory needs and interests while also being enjoyable for the entire family might seem daunting. Teens are notoriously moody and hard to please and their autism might make them less likely to want to do an activity as a group. However, with a bit of creativity, open mindednesss, patience, and understanding, it’s achievable. The key is to embrace flexibility, ensure open communication, and genuinely having fun together! Remember: it’s only fun if EVERYONE is having fun!

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