Parents of children on the Autism Spectrum


Parents talked about their children enjoying a range of activities that included watching television and DVDs, playing computer games, reading or looking at books and playing outside. As one parent said “just normal, everyday stuff”. The children’s enjoyment of the activities was different in some ways to non-disabled or neurotypical children because they had very focused interests and could do the same activity, like watching a particular episode of a comedy, repeatedly.
Most of the children liked watching the television or DVDs. Often they had favourite DVDs that they watched over and over again. Some of the children enjoyed documentaries about animals or the weather while other enjoyed repeats of old TV sitcoms like Only Fools and Horses, Open all Hours and Norman Wisdom films. Some of the children enjoyed jokes and puns although they didn't always understand the punchline because they took things very literally (see Communication; understandings’).

One boy really liked Doctor Who and insisted on being called ‘The Doctor’ by everyone. Some parents talked about their children’s encyclopaedic knowledge about dinosaurs, animals, maps or films and many of the children enjoyed reading or looking at books, particularly factual books such as encyclopaedias.
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The computer or games console was very important to some of the children. Playing games like Runescape - a fantasy themed game which involves various quests and challenges - was a popular activity while some children enjoyed surfing the internet. A few parents thought that their children liked the order, control and predictability of computer and games console.
Some children enjoyed the cinema while others didn’t. Some found darkness and the noise scary (seeFears, anxieties, sensory issues and meltdowns). A few parents talked about going to special screenings for children arranged by the local support groups, which worked because the children could wander around during the film or be noisy.
Several parents described how much their children enjoyed being outside; walking in the woods, gardening, playing football, running around and riding their bikes. Some of the children enjoyed the seaside, playing with sand and going swimming. One boy loved cycling to the allotment with his dad on a Saturday morning. He enjoyed stopping off at the sweet shop on the way and watching the trains go past during the morning.
A few of the children enjoyed pretend play and games with imaginary friends. One boy enjoyed pretending to be a doctor while another enjoyed re-living films he had seen.
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Some of the children’s interests could be called ‘special interests' as their interest and focus on these particular topics was more intense than usual. These interests included animals, zoos, museums, football, cars, buses and trains, nature, Super Mario, music and telling jokes. Several children loved animals and one mother thought this was because animals were easier to understand than humans.

One boy spent hours lining up his cars on the windowsill by size and colour order, others enjoyed shredding paper, stacking things or drawing ‘reams’ of pictures. One boy loved posting things and would post the letters back out through the post box while another “loved Pokemon and wanted to marry a rich Chinese woman who loved Pokemon too”.
Many of the children were happy to play on their own or with their brothers or sisters while a few children enjoyed group activities like Beavers or the Scouts, although they had difficulties if the location of the group changed (see Fears, anxieties, sensory issues and meltdowns’).
Some of the children’s activities were difficult for parents to deal with on a daily basis because the children did not understand issues around personal space or they chose to play in a particular place that obstructed other family members. One parent talked about how one of her children’s favourite activities was to walk around the house talking to her very slowly, which was wearing.
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Parents talked about certain activities that their children didn't enjoy. Some of the children didn't like playing football often because they interpreted the rules of the game so rigidly they would become upset with other children (see Fears, anxieties, sensory issues and meltdowns'). One parent described how football stressed her children because they couldn't kick the ball or throw it. Another parent said that her son didn't like the rough and tumble of sports and preferred “gentle, quiet activities”.

The activities the children enjoyed were activities that many children and young people like. The range of likes and dislikes discussed by parents, shows the ways in which children on the autism spectrum are very different and enjoy different things.
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Last reviewed July 2017.

Last updated November 2010.


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