Select Page

Cognitive Activities for Autism

May 23, 2022

When a person struggles with autism or has a family member with it, there are always ways to make improvements. These improvements may include improvements to their quality of life and cognitive skills. This can be a challenge for the individual and family members, and there are some cognitive activities that might help. 

It’s always a good idea for the patient or their family to discuss new activities and strategies with their doctor. This guide outlines some of the benefits and cognitive activities available for people struggling with autism. 

What Is Autism?

Also known as an autism spectrum disorder, autism is a disorder that’s considered a developmental disorder. This disorder affects the person’s ability to process social inputs and communicate effectively with others. It mainly affects the nervous system. 

An autistic person can be high-functioning or suffer from debilitating symptoms. These symptoms may leave them unable to function outside of their homes. The range and severity of symptoms differ from one case to the next.

Symptoms of autism can include:

  • Repetitive behavior
  • Obsessive behavior
  • Problems with communication
  • Problems interacting with other people

A parent needs to have their child evaluated by a professional to determine if they struggle with autism. 

Autism as a Cognitive Disorder

In many cases, a child or adult with autism suffers from a variety of cognitive development disorders. These challenges may resemble the same ones as people suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Most of the cognitive challenges a person with autism faces occur at the executive level. 

Executive skills that people with autism often struggle with include:

  • In planning
  • Decision making
  • Self-control
  • Short-term memory

While autism is considered a developmental disorder, there is a crossover into symptoms from cognitive disorders. A patient with autism can benefit from cognitive activities. 

How to Improve Cognition in Autistic Individuals

It’s possible that a patient might realize improvement in their cognitive abilities with the right types of activities. These activities would help the patient make strides in planning, decision making, and short-term memory skills.

Activities to Improve Social Interactions

Autistic individuals struggle to fit in during social interactions and need the practice to make improvements.

Social activities to help with autism can include:

  • Card games 
  • Board games
  • Matching games
  • Art classes
  • Dancing classes
  • Music classes
  • Martial arts classes
  • Singing classes
  • Craft activities
  • Basketball
  • Swimming
  • Baseball
  • Drama club
  • Storytelling groups
  • Sensory bins
  • Sensory bottles

It’s possible to find activities, such as these, that include autistic people and those without autism. A special needs group for activities is always preferred because the leader of the group understands the autistic person’s unique needs. 

Recreational Activities for Fun and Improvement

It is entirely possible for some of the cognitive activities to improve the abilities of a person struggling with autism. Some of these improvements may occur without them realizing it.

Recreational activities to enjoy and produce improvements with autism can include:

  • Joining a choir or other singing group
  • Going to a movie
  • Going camping
  • Entering a Chess tournament

These types of activities can include the family as well as the autistic patient. It can be an informal event with only the person with autism and family members. There are also groups out there that sponsor these types of activities, depending on the person’s desires. 

Educational Activities

Some autistic individuals can benefit from educational activities, which usually cover three main areas.

Educational activities for ASD can include:

  • Communication skills: Autistics struggle with communication skills, and specific activities can help them make improvements. This might include things, such as board games where they need to interact with other players. 
  • Language skills: A person with autism might struggle with vocabulary and speaking aloud. This person can benefit from activities that encourage speaking and vocabulary, such as a storytelling group or a singing group. 
  • Life skills: Some high-functioning autistics can live independently, but need to hone their life skills first. This can include safety, self-care, and daily activities that a person living alone must accomplish for themselves. 

A person with autism can make great strides in their behavior and understanding of the world around them. This is especially true when they take advantage of cognitive activities. Some of these activities are designed for a specific skill set, and this needs to be considered before choosing an activity. It never hurts to discuss a new activity with the person’s therapist before undertaking it. 

Things to Consider Before Undertaking New Cognitive Activities

Not all cognitive activities are the right fit for every person. Before undertaking a new activity, there are some things that need to be considered before moving forward.

Personal Interest

As with any activity, there are always personal likes and dislikes. This doesn’t mean that an autistic person should never select an activity that’s outside their comfort zone. 

There are always activities in the area of cognitive therapy that are going to appeal to a particular person. Some people may prefer certain activities over others. It is essential that the person enjoy the activity even if it challenges them. 

Personal Abilities

When selecting a cognitive activity, the loved one needs to choose an activity that commiserates with the autistic’s abilities. It’s never a good idea to try and force an activity that is too much for the person to do. If the autistic person struggles with specific issues, the family member needs to work with the coordinator of the activity. 

This way the loved one and coordinator can ensure that the patient’s needs are met. The goal is always a sense of accomplishment, and not all activities can be accomplished by all autistic patients. 

Special Needs, Inclusion, or a Combination

When choosing a cognitive activity for a person with autism, inclusive groups and limited groups are available. It is important to consider what type of group the person with autism will thrive in. It might be that the autistic person thrives in both settings for different activities. 

Final Thoughts

A person with autism can benefit from cognitive activities, and this can improve their quality of life. Someone with autism might also benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy or transcranial magnetic stimulation. 

At Brain Therapy TMS, we specialize in helping patients with autism by using TMS (transcranial magnetic stimulation). Reach out to us today to learn more or schedule an appointment.

Considering TMS Treatment? Schedule a Consultation!

Tired of the results you’re getting from your standard treatment? Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation may be able to increase your chances of long-term remission, reducing your symptoms and allowing you to live a more joyful life.




(619) 419-0901


[email protected]


1539 Garnet Ave.

San Diego, CA 92109

Brain Therapy TMS 619-419-0901
The leader in TMS treatment
We will gladly answer all of your questions