The 5 Needs: Fun | Organization for Autism Research

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The 5 Needs: Fun

Fun is one of The 5 Needs that we can often say, “Sure, we have fun.” But what specifically is fun for you? What is fun for your child?

Fun differs from person to person. We all need it, and sometimes we neglect having fun for the sake of being busy. Too much work and not enough fun can make us unhealthy, fussy, bitter, angry, and sad. Depression and anxiety can increase, too, when we do not have enough fun.

How much is enough? It all depends on you and your situation. Too much fun can create problems, too. Balance is the key to many things in life, including fun, health, and all of The 5 Needs. What we do know is that we all need fun in our lives.

What may be fun for one person is not fun for another person. For instance, going for a hike might be a delight for you, yet for someone else it means bugs, slippery rocks, and no fun at all. Playing a video game may be fun for some but drive others crazy! Music is the same way. For some people, soft music is the way to go. For other people, loud music matters. What works for you?

I know young man who has autism who listens to heavy rock music. His mom once asked him why he listened to it, because she thought it was just horrible. His reply was very insightful. He said, “Mom, what you hear and the screaming and yelling is exactly what I feel every time I walk out the front door. The music helps neutralize the fear and anxiety inside of me.”

The mom was quite surprised, but she never again thought the music was too harsh or too rough for her son. She respected his choice and understood his need to listen to such music.

For the young man, it was fun to hear that music.  For the mom, it was a nightmare. Explaining what he felt and what he heard gave the mom insight and understanding. He usually wore headphones, so she did not need to hear it much. However, when a song came on that the young man thought she would like, he would play it for her, and they would both have fun for a few minutes together. Fun does not need to last long to make an impact.

We need to meet people where they are. If things seem like fun to them, and not to us, it will help everyone to find out why. Why is the activity but not the music on a video game fun? Don’t make assumptions, just ask questions. Questions that come from your heart and are nonjudgmental will help. Be ready to accept a new way of seeing. Be open to finding new ways to have fun alone and with others.

What we do for fun definitely changes in life. Our age, health, financial situation, living circumstances, and even our jobs can affect what we can do for fun. The important thing is to find the fun ideas. Keep a running list, like the one below, somewhere so you will have ideas when you have free time. Keep it on the refrigerator and add to it whenever they think of something fun to do. Here are some suggestions:

•          Hiking or camping

•          Watching sports on TV

•          Going for a car ride

•          Riding a bike

•          Taking an exercise class

•          Making a homemade pizza or fruit pie

•          Planting a garden

•          Playing in the rain outside

•          Building a sand castle

•          Feeding the animals at a nearby farm

•          Reading a book or listening to one on tape

•          Talking with friends

•          Going to the park

•          Drawing or finger painting

•          Drawing with chalk on the sidewalk

•          Shopping

•          Listening to music

•          Dancing

•          Photographing nature

•          Sitting outside

You can also Google “Fun things to do in (wherever you live)” and see what interests you or your family. Set a date to do some of these things.  Please feel free to share some of your own ideas in the comments section below!

About the author: Hello, my name is Wendy Swenson. I am a mother of three grown children and a grandmother, too. One of my children came to me by way of adoption. He is currently 32 years of age and has high-functioning autism. His life has been a miracle. I will tell you more about him in time. I work full-time as a school social worker and am a licensed clinical social worker. I have also authored six books on The 5 Needs we all share in life. I earned my Masters in Social Work from Southern University at New Orleans, where I grew up. My son and I moved to Virginia in order to receive better services for him in 2001. He is working part time now and has a wonderful job coach.

You can learn more about Wendy and “The 5 Needs” at her Web site.

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