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For children with autism, language skills can be taught using 2-D and 3-D matching skills. Matching is the ability to see two things and recognize that they are the same. Matching skills improve concentration, train visual and short term memory, attention to detail, classification skills, and improve vocabulary. For children with autism, developing these matching skills helps them physically identify and describe relationships between objects which leads to the development of learning language skills. Matching games offer a clear end goal, which is comforting to learners and helpful for teachers and parents.
Matching activities are a great choice for students with autism because they incorporate both visual and motor skills. Additionally, the ability to match two objects requires greater complex thinking skills, like the ability to sort objects into groups by qualities. While matching may seem like a simple task on the surface, there are actually cognitive processes involved.
While the concept of matching is identifying two of the same objects, this skill actually encourages children to develop concepts related to sorting, association and categorization. These are more advanced concepts that encourage children to think more critically about qualities and characteristics of objects, leading to further language development.
Teaching these matching skills can be done at home and integrated into many natural parts of the day, offering many opportunities for exposure and learning!
Note: When doing the activities below it is important to provide a reinforcer that will motivate the child with whom you are working. Reinforcement is the foundation of ABA (Applied Behavior Therapy), but it can often be misunderstood. An example of positive reinforcement would be a student receiving praise, a candy, or another desirable object following a correct answer or positive behavior. Reinforcement needs to be provided immediately following the behavior in order to be successful, and the item needs to be specific to the student. What one student likes, another may not.
Color Identical Matching
For color identical matching, students will learn to match 11 color cards.
Once the student has mastered matching one color set together, continue to gradually increase the number of colors in the field from 2, to 3, to 4, etc.
3-D to 3-D Matching
For 3-D to 3-D matching, students will learn to match identical 3-D objects, including actual foods, animals, everyday objects, vehicles, and blocks. Using everyday objects, such as bowls or cups is helpful because they “nest,” which acts as a natural motivator for students to stack them together and explore matching.
Once the student has mastered matching one object, introduce other identical objects one at a time. Once the child becomes more confident, more objects can be added at once. “Distractors,” or one odd item out, can be included to add a level of complexity.
3-D to 2-D Matching
For 3-D to 2-D matching, students will learn to match 3-D objects to corresponding 2-D pictures, including foods, animals, everyday objects, vehicles, and blocks.
Once the student has mastered matching one picture card with its corresponding object, you can include more items to match, introducing them one at a time. Once the child becomes more confident, more objects can be added at once. “Distractors,” or one odd item out, can be included to add a level of complexity.
Common Objects Similar Matching
For common objects similar matching, students will learn to match similar picture cards depicting common objects.
Once the student has mastered matching one picture card, introduce other similar picture cards one at a time. Once the child becomes more confident, more objects can be added at once. “Distractors,” or one odd item out, can be included to add a level of complexity.
Once the child has mastered matching similar, 3-D objects, you can introduce this fun, educational game to practice these newly acquired matching skills in a natural setting!
Why Matching is Important
Children with autism may have difficulty with working memory, the type of memory that is responsible for temporarily holding information available for processing. Working memory is important for executive functions, or basic cognitive processes. Basic matching is one of the first lessons taught in an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program for children with autism. The visual aspect of matching is important in development of memory and understanding in children with autism.
In addition to supporting the development of your child’s cognitive abilities and language skills, teaching them how to play these games is a valuable social skill. Once your child learns to play matching or sorting games, they can play these with siblings, classmates, and friends, which supports the development of social skills. The complexity of matching games can be easily modified to suit your learner.
This article is based on the following research:
Chloe Fay is from Northborough, MA. She is currently an undergraduate student at Lesley University majoring in Special Education and Child, Youth, and Family Services. Chloe aspires to work with children with Autism in an educational setting.