As someone with a degree in Special Education, and who has worked with Autistic and other Special Needs children for the past 26 years, I have learned a few different techniques for teaching and helping them to reach their fullest potential. I’d like to share these techniques, as well as review some free Online Games, on different subject matter (reading, math, etc…) in a series of several articles. The first subject I will broach is “Word Search” games which can be used as a fun way to teach the alphabet, phonics, speech, problem solving, attention to task, and many other useful skills. I will share my insights with you as well as links to several of these online games, based on personal experiences with these special children whom I love working with.
One wonderful and very intelligent young man is Autistic. Although he is (currently) non-verbal, he readily learns new things. After all these years he sill surprises those who know him with what he can do! He has taught us so much about the wonderful abilities that he, and other special needs children, have to share with all of us. They truly are God’s most perfect people!
Here’s an example of what this young man has taught us. One day it was decided to try using a word search book with him, simply as a fun way to teach him how to say letters and words… not really thinking that he’d complete the actual word searches themselves. He and his teacher sat down together with the book and began reading the words aloud, one letter at a time. It is good to have some special needs children repeat each letter 3 times in a row, to aid in their ability to remember and correctly pronounce each letter….softening your voice each time so that they gain confidence in using their own voice, This technique also helps you to hear if they are saying the letters correctly. After you read each letter 3 times, you may want to have them repeat the whole word with me 3 times as well so they can hear how the letters all fit together.
Because this was his first time working with word searches he was shown how to locate the words within the puzzle and cross them out as he went. This was a simple book with just across and down words (as opposed to diagonal or back-word words) in the grid. He and his teacher worked together like this and then had him write out the word list on a separate sheet of paper to practice his printing. After they were done with the session, the word search book and a pencil were stored in his bedroom for the next session. The next time his teacher came to work with the student his mom told her how much he loved the word search” book and that she had found him sitting on his bed doing them independently. Never underestimate the abilities of special needs children!
Within a short while, other word search books were bought for him and he had no problem doing the more difficult puzzles which included diagonal and backward words. He and his teacher were very pleasantly surprised that he had picked up on it so quickly, initiated doing the activity himself, and genuinely seemed to enjoy it. Many Autistic children have trouble with initiating activities on their own. Other than watching and picking out videos and putting them into the VCR by himself, he had rarely, if ever, initiated a leisure time activity by himself. This was a milestone! Needless to say, he has been given even more word search books over the past year, although a few have had to be hidden so that there would be some left undone to work on while his teacher is there with him, as he does so many of them on his own without her!
Subsequently, his teacher has found several fun and easy, free word search games online that can be played right on the computer (as opposed to them having to be printed out) that he has worked on during their time together. Here are links and reviews to several which you may want to use with your Autistic child and/or students. These games are great for other children as well. Obviously, there are a wide variety of differences to be found in children within the Autism Spectrum, so you may have to adapt how you and your child use some of these games, based on their own abilities. You can click on the name of the game to get to it online.
WORDCRUNCH : This game has a new topic every day with all of the words being related to that theme. You can also go back and play previous days games if you missed them, or if you don’t care for the theme of the day. Some of the words, which are presented one at a time, are more advanced, but it doesn’t seem to detract from the child’s ability to find the words. Wordcrunch has only a few sound effects and minimal animation which are nice ways to keep an Autistic child’s interest without causing sensory overload….but you may want to keep the sound low on your computer until you see how the child reacts to the sound effects. If the child takes a long time, and can’t find the word, the first letter of the word will flicker on the game board to draw their attention to it. The game is timed but it doesn’t seem to just stop working if the child doesn’t finish within a certain amount of time, which is nice as it doesn’t frustrate the Autistic (or other) child who feels the need to finish things systematically. You might want to just spell out the words with the child right as each word is shown, before they try and find the word, as the word will disappear once they find it.
CHEVRON CARS : This brightly colored and easy to read word search is a timed game. The child will get 9 minutes to complete their search for about a dozen names of characters from the “Cars” movie. If he/she circles a word correctly they will hear either a voice say “that is correct” or simply a chime, and will win 20 points. If the child circles incorrectly, they will either hear a voice say “that is incorrect” or there will be a chiming sound, and they will lose 5 points off their score. If they haven’t finished the puzzle by the end of the 9 minutes a sign comes up on the side of the game with the words “Oh no! You ran out of time! Try again” and the correct location for all the words is shown. There are many other fun things to do on this website, so please check them out too!
SOFT SCHOOLS : Dozens of simple word search games on a huge variety of topics! Just to name a few there are word searches on: Sports, Holidays, sight-words, seasons, foods, music, parts of the body, and so many more topics! At least one of these puzzles (Figurative Language Word search game) did not have a word list, but that seems to be the exception instead of the norm. There is a timer on this game but it can be stopped and restarted at will, which also stops your ability to find words. Stopping the timer right at the beginning of the game would allow you the ability to spell each word out with the child before they start to search for them. If the child finds all the words, a sign pops up that says “Good Job”. There are no “bells and whistles” in these games, or even any sounds which may be just perfect for children who respond negatively to noises! There are many other games on the main website, on a variety of subjects, some of which will hopefully be reviewed in subsequent articles.
SCHOOLTIME GAMES : This word search has about 16 different categories to choose from such as fruits, Dr. Seuss, Star Trek, sports, animals, and more. There are sound effects, that if turned up too loud, might startle some children. There is no timer on this game so you can spell out each word with the child and then they can take all the time they need to find the words. After all the words have been found, there is some music and the game goes back to a screen (with a cute bear on it ) that says “play again”.
These are but a few of the thousands of “free online word search games for kids”. Here are the search results for even more: online word search games for kids . All of them cannot be vouched for without further review (which should be done in subsequent articles), but through “trial and error”, you should be able to find more that you can use.
Hopefully you have found this information and these links and reviews helpful. Please look for future articles by this author about techniques to use to teach autistic children and adults various subject matter and share with her in all she has learned from these most special people! In other articles there will be reviews of many more links to free online games that can be used to teach other skills such as money, time, addition, following directions, colors, shapes, reading and more. Thanks so much for spending this time reading about using word searches for teaching autistic children. God bless you and yours!