Autism & Rummikub
Playing games around the dinner table is a terrific social learning tool, especially for people with autism like my son Zach. He just beat me 3 out of 4 games of Rummikub, and I’m no slouch at logic games!!!
We’ve been practicing for years at school and in therapy the basic skills to play games, take turns, make eye contact, ask and answer questions, etc. Those skills all finally came together when COVID ended all activity outside the home and we began practicing Rummikub every day.
We initially played as a team, where Zach would be my helper to place tiles when his attention allowed it. Eventually, he graduated to his own rack and played side by side so I could show him where to place his tiles. I continued to fade involvement until he now fully participates in his first real family game... and on par with the adults!
The best part is that finally, at age 21, I am able to have a DIALOG with my son!!! He is able to give specific answers to specific questions and not just repeat the words. Wow!
Using a chess timer has helped Zach understand when it’s his turn without me saying “Your turn” every single time, so I am purposely silent in the video below. You can see how he is now fully up to speed with turn taking. Soon I’ll fade the timer since now he gives full attention even when not his turn.
I printed "Go !" with a P-Touch and stuck it to the portion of the chess timer that pops up when it's your turn and disappears when you press the switch down, causing the other player to see "Go !" when it's their turn.
I began by saying "Your turn to go" as my turn ended and I pressed the button to show that it was his turn. That faded to either 'Go' or 'Your turn', or simply pressing the timer button. It is helpful to continually interject slight variability to prevent getting locked into something very specific because his OCD has the power to unravel a good time in an instant.
Turn taking is also aided by use of our denim drawstring bag passed to the person whose turn it is. We still slide the bag when playing with more than two people, mostly because it helps the adults know when its their turn. Lol.
The denim bag is used to hold game tiles during play, as opposed to official Rummikub intructions that suggest all tiles be placed face down on the table and chosen similar to dominoes. This takes up quite a bit of table space and we've also had some tiles knocked to the floor, so the bag helps create a more controlled environment.
We typically cuff down the denim once or twice to allow easier acess towards the end of the game when fewer tiles are left in the bag.
Special Wins' blog posts share one individual's journey with autism, highlighting things that have had a positive impact.
These posts are not intended to diagnose or suggest any treatments or course of action. The intent is to share stories of various wins in daily life.
Autism is uniquely different in every case. What works well for one individual may not be helpful for another.
We have tried countless things to help our son reach his fullest potential. The vast majority of things simply didn't work for him, so we thought it might be helpful to share the few things that did bring some amount of success. Every tiny little success builds upon the last and over the years begin to develop real skills. And the joy that is shared at each win is worth everything!