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Strategies/Recess and Play

Narrative Play Therapy (NPT) for unstructured time at school:

  1. Identify a peer to work with the child who has difficulty with language.
  2. Create a picture that will show the child his choices of available activities (in the classroom or at recess).
  3. Pre-teach the plan with the picture.  For example, set goals with the child each day to: 
    • Remember how to invite a friend. 
    • Pick a friend. 
    • Choose 3 things you want to do today outside.
    • Ask your friend what he wants to do. 
    • Decide on a plan of action. 

    Make the play experience successful by:

    • Teaching the child and the peer skills with both visual and verbal prompting and modeling. 
    • Allowing them to play together without prompting.
    • Helping them end their play period.  Show them how to say good-bye to a friend.
    • Planning a play date or time to play at recess next time.
  4. Provide activities that are concrete and require hands-on materials.  Have a duffel bag ready with supplies (chalk, jump rope, gertie ball, soccer ball and cones, games for quiet play, a white board for explanations, a few fidget toys, a baseball that is soft, a soft bat, a soft mitt).
  5. Allow other peers to join in when the child understands the game.
  6. Adapt regular baseball, soccer, kickball, and tag games to allow the child with a language disability to play. (e.g., keep bases and the pitcher close, the baseball soft, and the bat large).
  7. Always be aware of the child’s sensory and gross motor needs. He may need help moving across the trolley or getting up on the play structures or throwing a ball. Give him homework to practice these skills.
  8. Ask the occupational therapist or physical therapist to help you with a plan if the child needs extra support.
  9. Write a short note or report for the teacher, the aide, and others who work with the child so that the skills can be practiced during the school week.
  10. Meet with your team, weekly at first, to discuss what is working at recess and how everyone can help the child.

Work toward the main goals: joint attention during play and reciprocity in interactions with peers.


Stay with the child and help them follow his peer. Narrate the actions as you run.

Although there are many resources for social language intervention, some are inappropriate for certain children.  Be sure to carefully select activities that are not going to be a source of repetitive play for children with autism.  If the suggested language script is inappropriate and may embarrass the child, delete it from your lesson.  Follow the child’s lead.  When he is delighted with a game, you will see his responsive facial expression and hear him giggle as he plays. 

Have fun!!