U.S. symbols bear important implications about America’s history, but because of their abstract meanings and representations, they can be difficult for autistic children to comprehend. Introduce, familiarize and teach children with autism about the significance of major U.S. symbols through creative, hands-on activities that provide essential sensory stimulation and foster development in higher-order thinking skills.
The American Flag
The American Flag is perhaps the most iconic of all U.S. symbols. Its stars, stripes and colors all represent important elements of the country’s history and current states. Encourage your child to run her hands over the flag as you count the stars and stripes together. Use simple, concrete language when explaining that the stripes represent the first colonies -- for example, say “When America was born, there were 13 colonies. How many stripes can we count on the flag?” and name as many states as you can together as you point to and touch each of the stars. Create your own flag together with construction paper and star stickers, or take your child outside and wave handheld flags together in the breeze as you introduce concepts of freedom that the flag represents.
The Liberty Bell
The Liberty Bell in Philadelphia is an iconic U.S. symbol of freedom. It is the bell that rang loudly as the American Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776. Show your child pictures of the Liberty Bell as you discuss its significance in American history. Play your child an audio clip of a bell ringing as you encourage him to imagine what the newly freed American people might have felt when they heard it. A simple Internet search will yield audio files of the Liberty Bell song, which your child might enjoy listening to. If you live nearby, visit Philadelphia’s Independence Hall to see the Liberty Bell in person. Alternatively, take a virtual tour through books and online resources.
The Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to celebrate America’s 100-year anniversary of freedom. Since its construction, tourists have traveled from all over the world to tour the monumental statue. If a tour isn’t feasible for you and your child, bring the Statue of Liberty to her with activities that will help her learn about some of its intriguing facts. The official Statue of Liberty website features a coloring page of the statue that includes interesting facts about the national monument. View photographs of the statue together, and encourage your child to consider what Liberty’s iconic torch and tablet may represent.
The American Bald Eagle
The American Bald Eagle is the national bird. Discuss the bird’s strength and might while engaging your child in an arts-and-crafts activity that allows him to create his own bald eagle. Help him push air-dry clay into a mold or cookie cutter and encourage him to etch details into it with the rounded end of a fine paintbrush. Alternatively, cut wings from a piece of cardboard and help him decorate them with paint or faux feathers. Glue them to a cardboard bathroom tissue roll painted to resemble the American bald eagle.