Can Playing Video Games Help Treat Autism?
Parents of children with autism spend much of their time trying to engage their children socially. Autistic children often struggle with communication and relating to peers, and practice repetitive behaviors that can be off-putting or not age-appropriate. Some parents have found marked improvement of symptoms in children that play video games.
Engagement and Anticipation
An autistic child puts his or her concentration skills to good use while playing video games. There are so many video game options out there, a parent is sure to find one that engages the mind of their child. Once engaged and inspired, gaming improves concentration and teaches children to anticipate changes and plan moves accordingly. These skills are absolutely necessary for conversation and can help autistic children interpret the words and actions of their peers.
Video games increase hand-eye coordination. Children can start with an easy game that requires just one finger and move forward. As the child masters each skill, eventually they will move on to games that require both hands and all fingers. Hand-eye coordination will get progressively better in all areas due to gaming. This is true for children with and without autism.
Some autistic children have trouble moving beyond activities that they find comforting. According to a child development researcher with a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, this often leads to the child engaging in activities that their peers are no longer interested in. Video games help correct this disparity. Autistic children are now able to talk with peers about common interests, such as Minecraft or Angry Birds.
A common symptom of autism is a lack of imaginative play. Video games immerse children in an imaginary world, requiring suspension of disbelief and adaptive thinking to fully appreciate playing them. This immersion compels the autistic child to engage in imaginative play, which experts agree is incredibly important for healthy brain development.
Communication and Cooperation
Video games provide a platform for communication. Parents and siblings have the opportunity to engage in back and forth conversation with an autistic child while playing a game together. Cooperative skills are often necessary in order to be successful in a game, providing real world incentive to learn these skills in a world that has fixed rules and is much less complex. Sometimes a child needs to take baby steps when learning a complex skill. Video games help teach these through very definite rewards such as beating a boss or completing a quest.
Parents can use video games as a tool to help connect autistic children to their peers and the world around them. The skills learned in video games can be directly applied to the real world and allow autistic children to gain experience with everyday skills, building confidence and giving the child the tools to navigate in society.