I recently read an article from someone saying that video games are not good for kids with autism. Her take on this was that it isolates the children even more than they already are. She also said it leads to obsession with video games.
I wondered how much interaction she had with autistic kids. Does she have a loved one that shuts off from the world? If so, maybe she could see the value that we see in our gaming technology.
I love letting my son play with select video games and apps. There are many days when I can not get him to focus or get his mind off of things that are bothering him.
I have found that there are games that can capture his attention when I can not. They can pull him out of a place that I cannot reach.
As a mom, I have so much peace when I see him take my phone or tablet and focus on the things on the screen. His intelligence amazes me when I watch him. Suddenly he goes from a dark place to a very happy and contented place. He focuses on the screen and the stories in front of him. The matching games and puzzles are his favorite.
I am not saying that this should be a constant thing. Obviously, I do not encourage that we let our kids be entertained or distracted by electronic devices at all times.
With my daughter, I can sit with her, talk about her feelings and discuss various situations. While that is my first choice, it is simply not possible with some children on the autism spectrum. Technology has brought us to a place where we have tools we did not have a decade ago.
Our kids are extremely bright and enjoy ways to channel that. There are now games and apps that help with social skills like reading faces and emotions. That is something that many autistic kids struggle with.
I also find that many of the games I choose help him with problem-solving and cause and effect. I love the Wii games because they also help his motor skills. He can play golf on Wii with confidence and not have the social fears that he would have on a golf course or playground. He learns to make quick decisions and sees immediate results.
While it is hard to teach him this with words, the game can teach him in a way he understands. When I put that electronic device in his hand, he has quiet time where he is in control but is also learning.
Studies have been done that back up my intuition as a mother to let him use these devices to help him.
“Children and young adults with ASD have unique opportunities to capitalize on their interest and aptitude in videogames as a resource to develop desired social behaviors and life skills and to increase their physical activity,” says Games for Health Journal Editor-in-Chief Bill Ferguson, PhD.
“Videogames offer opportunities for successful learning, motivation to improve skills such as planning, organization, and self-monitoring, and reinforcement of desired behaviors without the need for direct human-to-human interaction.” – Counsel & Heal
According to a study overview published in Games for Health Journal: Research Development, and Clinical Applications, a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc, games are increasingly becoming an important teaching tool for improving health behaviors ranging from healthy lifestyle habits and behavior modification, to self-management of illness and chronic conditions to motivating and supporting physical activity.
I am thankful that my son was born in a time where these things exist. They are very valuable tools for me and can be for many other moms. These games open a world of learning, problem solving, creativity and expression for many children.
I am excited to see technology progress even more in the years to come. As always, we must remember to keep all thing in moderation and not let it become a constant obsession. But I encourage moms to use modern innovations to reach their children, watch them grow and have fun doing it!