As you may discover after perusing through æStranger.com, I’m an avid proponent of visual entertainment and specifically games & films. I believe that they can be a force for good, in improving the quality of life, education, work, and motivation.
There is a group of people who I feel can benefit the most from engaging with games, both online and offline games. This group of people is those diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and their family and friends.
I’m writing this because there are people, close family, in my life that struggle with autism every day. And if you’re reading this then you either know people or are one such individual yourself.
I wanted to write this to show that gaming can be good and that it can help with supporting and interacting with those that have autism. There are enough stories on the web where it’s been proven that gaming does indeed work when trying to create a connection, and how others have used it to improve those relations and connections.
What games do well is that they create a safe and recognizable environment for people of all ages with autism to explore. And because they are safe and recognizable, concepts such as emotion, competition, win/loss, and consequence can be understood without fear. Those are important concepts to understand and even those without autism can struggle to deal with them at times.
There are of course darker sides to gaming and I’ll explore these because it’s about making an informed decision when you want to use any tool. And if you’re a parent, it’s about understanding, being engaged and doing the work, not about finding a quick fix or digital-nanny that will help with your problem.
If you’re unfamiliar with the issues around autism, then I’m going to give a quick run-down of what they are in relation to gaming. It is not a comprehensive explanation of all issues, and if you want such a run-down then I recommend searching the great number of specialist sites available on the web.
Addendum: One thing I do want to add if you are searching the web, please do take a lot of studies with a pinch or pound of salt. Many only list problems, no solutions, research a minority or one-sided view, appear to not take into account underlying parental or technological incongruities and are simply just too old to warrant useful research. Such as this article from 2013.