"Turns & Topics": A Learning Game for Children with ASDs

Ph.D. in School Psychology candidate Susie Baretz created a learning game for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs), for an assignment in her Preschool Intervention class with Dr. Vincent Alfonso (Associate Dean, GSE) while she was in the School Psychology Professional Diploma program at GSE in the Masters in Preschool Psychology track. The game, called Turns & Topics (click here to find out more, or to order online), is a magnetic board game that teaches basic game play and improves language skills for children with ASDs. The game was recently published by Super Duper Publications. Ms. Baretz describes her motivations and her concept in its creation:

Turns and Topics was initially designed in response to an assignment from Dr. Alfonso in Preschool Intervention. The assignment involved designing an intervention program or product for the preschool population and presenting it in a formal proposal framework, as would be done in order to obtain grants, approval from a district, general funding, etc. As I was, and am, very close with my nephew who has autism, I immediately began brainstorming ideas for interventions geared toward children with ASDs. At the time, I was also working at a private school for children with autism, and the lack of appropriate, meaningful games on the market for these children was obvious. Every time we played a game with the kids, it would need hours of adaptation and “tweaking” before it was something they could understand and enjoy. Turns and Topics came out of the frustrating experience of searching for suitable games to play with my nephew and the children with whom I worked.

Turns and Topics teaches the children the concept of back and forth, turn taking play and increases in complexity as children begin to understand the basic format of game playing. The structure of the game is based on topics the children learn in most programs geared towards children with autism. I wanted to make the material and topics meaningful to them, rather than abstract concepts with which they have no familiarity. In addition, Turns and Topics incorporates a reinforcement system within the structure of the game so children who are not (and may never be) internally reinforced by game playing are motivated to engage in the play with others. I hope the game will be useful not only in the classroom and therapeutic settings, but also in the home as one more situation in which children with ASDs can engage with their family members.

Susie Baretz is currently living in Chicago, where she is writing her dissertation and working for a non-profit afterschool program for children with Autism.



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