Post by:

Deiera Bennett

Created on:

November 14, 2023

15 Creative Social-Emotional Learning Activities for Autistic Students

Social-emotional learning (SEL) has a positive impact on students’ behavior, academic performance, and emotional well-being. In fact, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) for autistic students often include SEL components, even if they aren’t labeled as such. Here are 15 creative SEL activities that address the 5 CASEL competencies. 

CASEL Standard 1: Self-Awareness

These self-awareness activities revolve around helping students understand their own emotions, thoughts, and values.

1. Art

Drawing, painting, and other forms of art give students the opportunity to express their emotions in a fun and creative way. This is especially useful for students who have difficulty verbalizing how they’re feeling.

2. Emotion Charades

Emotions charades is an engaging activity that gets the whole class involved. Students act out emotions without using words, and the other students have to guess what emotion the student is displaying. Alternatively, the teacher can act out the emotions, and the students can guess.

3. Interviews

Students interview each other about their interests, backgrounds, and experiences. Not only will this experience expose students to diverse perspectives, but it’ll also encourage them to share info about themselves that they’re proud of.

Students completing an art project.

CASEL Standard 2: Self- Management

These self-management activities allow students to practice regulating their emotions and managing their behaviors.

4. Choice Boards

Create different activities that meet the same standards, and allow students to choose which ones they want to complete. Choice boards teach students how to make decisions that fit their needs, even when their decisions differ from their classmates.

5. Sensory Breaks 

Sometimes students get overwhelmed or overstimulated and need a break to regain a sense of calm, control, and focus. Make the most of sensory breaks by incorporating breathing exercises, coping strategies, or calming music.

6. Visual Schedules

Visual schedules can be easier to follow than written schedules. Make an activity out of it by allowing students to create their own visual schedules using images, symbols, etc.

Sensory items in a container

CASEL Standard 3: Social Awareness

These social awareness activities emphasize the importance of learning about and understanding different perspectives.

7. Books and Videos about Different Cultures

It’s important for students to understand and appreciate diversity. When seeking out books and videos about different cultures, prioritize sources created by individuals who are part of the culture being represented. 

8. Guest Speakers

Guest speakers are a memorable addition to any lesson. Invite speakers who share interests with the students or can add more context to a lesson. For example, if you’re teaching a lesson about plants, invite a botanist. 

9. Identity Collages

Identity collages allow students to share information about their interests, family, culture, neurodivergent traits, skills, etc. and learn about their classmates. Provide magazines, books, stencils, and other art materials that students can glue on poster board. Alternatively, students can use a program like Google Slides or Canva to create a digital collage. 

CASEL Standard 4: Relationship Skills

These activities teach students how to build and nurture supportive relationships with their peers.

10. Conflict Resolution Role-Play

Students can learn and practice conflict resolution skills by acting out common conflict scenarios. Find or create different scenarios that students might face, such as disagreeing with a friend about what game to play, and ask students to act out how they can resolve the conflict in an appropriate way. Follow each role-play with a group discussion.

11. Group Art Project

Group art projects are a fun and engaging way for students to collaborate with others to achieve a common goal. Students can also practice their communication skills and gain a better understanding of their classmates’ perspective. A community-building group art project could be to create a class flag.

12. Gaming Club

Did you know gaming can empower neurodivergent youth to build meaningful relationships? A gaming club can bring students together to bond over their common love of games. With online SEL games like Ava by Social Cipher, students can bond over gaming while learning valuable SEL skills.

Ava playing a video game

CASEL Standard 5: Responsible Decision-Making

These decision-making activities give students the opportunity to make choices about their personal behavior and solve problems that impact their environment.

13. Board game 

Continuing with the theme of gaming, board games provide multiple opportunities for students to use decision-making skills. You can use a store-bought board game or create your own using poster board. Depending on your students’ strengths, you can assign them the task of creating their own board game and then spend time playing them.

14. Problem-Solving Warm-Ups

At the beginning of each class period, present the students with a problem that’s relevant to their interests. For example, if your students love dogs, the prompt could say, “You’re dog-sitting your neighbor’s puppy for a day. What 3 activities would you do to make sure the puppy has a fun day?”

15. Digital Citizenship Discussion

Cyberbullying, harassment, and misinformation are all rampant online. When students are online, they must constantly make decisions about what sites to visit, what information to trust, and who is safe to interact with. Lead a discussion about digital citizenship by asking students questions like: How do you decide if a website is safe? What can you do if someone says something mean online? What kind of information should you never post online?

Social-emotional learning empowers autistic students and creates an overall more positive learning environment for students and staff.These 15 activities allow students to explore all five CASEL competencies in fun, engaging ways. Our Ava curriculum is full of SEL lessons and activities developed specifically for neurodivergent youth.

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