Autism Simulation Activities

silhouette of a crowd image by Christopher Hall from

Autism is a developmental disability that alters how the human brain works. Because autism is a spectrum disorder, not everyone with autism shows the same symptoms. Often those with autism have difficulties dealing with everyday distractions such as background noise, lights or movement, as well as difficulties learning social rules or communicating with other people. Simulation activities can help non-autistic people experience a little bit of what it's like to have autism, the better to understand the world of the autistic.

Writing Simulation

To experience what a person with autism experiences when trying to write, put very thick gloves, such as garden gloves, on your hand. Then try to write simple things such as the alphabet or your name with a pencil.

Understanding While Being Read To Simulation

To understand what it can be like for an autistic person to try to focus on and understand what someone is saying to them, surround the person undergoing the simulation with other people. While one person reads a factual paragraph to the person undergoing the simulation, the other people around should pat him on the shoulders and head, rub rough materials on his neck, and read to him from a completely different book.

Video Autism Simulations

Several people with autism have created short videos to serve as simulations of what background noise and sensory overload feel like to them. Show these videos as part of an autism simulation activity:

Because of the nature of these videos, anyone with epilepsy or prone to seizures should not watch.

Drawing Simulation

To simulate the difficulties a person with autism has focusing on a drawing task, crowd the person experiencing the simulation into a small space, with people crowded close on either side. Turn on repetitive music, and at the same time play loud sounds, all while shining bright lights on the person undergoing the simulation.

Rice and Paper Clip Simulation

To simulate the tactile confusion that an autistic person might experience, pour rice into a small cup. Add paper clips and mix them into the rice. Have the person undergoing the simulation attempt to remove the paper clips from the cup.

Mirror Copying Simulation

Another simulation that helps people understand the difficulties autistic people can have accomplishing seemingly simple tasks when surrounded by sensory overload involves copying a shape in a mirror. Draw a couple of interlocking geometric shapes on a piece of paper, but don't let the person undergoing the simulation see them. Hold the piece of paper up to a mirror, and ask him to copy the shapes exactly while looking only at the mirror. Then, aim a flashlight at a mirror and flick it off and on, while simultaneously playing loud music.

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