Autism Therapy: Teaching Your Child About Personal Space

Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders all have their own set of… quirky-ness. I mean no disrespect. All I mean is the reason why there is a spectrum is that there are so many different variations.

For Lira, she has an extremely high IQ but cannot communicate that information as quickly as her brain processes it. She likes to flap when her brain races… in her hair, in her face, against a wall or chair… or against someone. She has no concept of personal space.

Simple way to make personal space a more concrete idea for a child with Autism.

In order to help her realize that everyone has a personal bubble, I took one of her miniature princess toys and placed it in a plastic storage bag. I blew air into the bag and sealed it. I also grabbed her stuffed Mario.

We sat down together and I explained to her that everyone has an invisible bubble that is called “personal space.”  I asked her to poke at her princess toy and feel the bubble. I asked her what it felt like and explained that you cannot feel someone’s personal bubble but it is there.

Next, I told her that even though we cannot feel someone else’s bubble, that person might be uncomfortable if someone tries to poke through it. Lira watched as I used her Mario to poke at the princess through the bag. As the princess bounced around inside the bubble, I asked Lira if she thought the princess was happy about Mario trying to pop her bubble.

Then, I told her that there are times when it is acceptable to step inside someone’s personal space, like when you give a hug, but that we should ask permission before trying to poke through their bubble. We ended the lesson by having the princess come out of her bubble to hug Mario.

Over the next several days, when Lira breached someone’s personal space, I reminded her that she was in that person’s bubble. After a week, I noticed she no longer flapped against people and that she seemed to respect our personal space more.

Please note: I am not a doctor nor am I a therapist. I am a mother of a child with Autism (PDD-NOS) and just wanted to share something that worked for us.

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  1. says

    Awesome!! I love because we all ‘talk’ about the personal bubble, but this is FABULOUS for our kids – to SHOW them the actual bubble!! I can’t wait to use this on my daughter – she might just get it now. Thank you SO MUCH!!

  2. says

    This is a brilliant idea! I have a cousin who is high functioning spectrum with a son who is autistic and they both have issues with the bubble. I may be forwarding this on to them. :)

  3. says

    This is a great idea for a visual on personal space! Most ASD kiddos are highly visual so this gives them something to reference when you speak of it later. Good job!

  4. Joscelyne says

    I need to try this idea with my sensory kiddo that always seems to want to be right up on us touching all the time. Good visual perspective for her to refer to. Thanks for posting.

    • Penny says

      I really hope it works for you. We had to try something when a friend told me that Lira was clapping against the teachers in Sunday School.

  5. Martina says

    Thank you for sharing. Personal space seems to becoming more of an issue with our youngest every day. It causes a lot of problems between her and her sister. I think I am going to have to try this.

  6. Erika says

    Thanks for posting this! My eight year old truly LOVES his little brother who is six. He is constantly rubbing on his hair and hugging him and my six year old is to the point of shouting and hitting because it is driving him crazy! I am desperate to find a way to fix this! Going to try this! All you mothers are in my heart as we deal with all the challenges put before us! God Bless you all!

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