Gaming with Autism, Let's Discuss!

Autism rates are now at 1 in 68 children. How many of them are gamers and does that have positive influence over them?

 The CDC just released some new information saying that 1 in 68 children have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). This percentage is higher than the last numbers given, which means that autism is on the rise. Now those numbers only show the children that are being diagnosed, and not the numbers of people or families that are being impacted by ASD.

If 1 in 68 children are being diagnosed, then at least 1 in 68 families are impacted by this. What about extended family that is involved? So maybe 1 in 50 families total is a conservative figure. The point is, there are a lot of people who have some sort of ties to ASD.

I am one of those families. My oldest son was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at about age 5. He is now 14 years old. It's been a long journey but I'll save that story for a different time and a different website.

Gaming and ASD

If you've met someone with ASD, you know that everyone is different. It's the reason ASD is a spectrum and not just a straight disorder. There are, however, many similarities as well. In Asperger's, one of those is finding a hobby that interest them. When they do, they end up investing a lot of time in that hobby and learn every little nuance they can. My son has done just that with Minecraft.

 

More importantly he is a very different person when he is playing. He plays by himself quite a bit, but he also plays online on a variety of servers. During this time he has developed friendships with a few people in a few different countries.

 

If you know ASD, you know how incredible this is. A common theme among ASD is social skills, or the lack of.

 

I think the anonymity of being online helps break down those social barriers and reduces the anxiety of talking to someone. This is a very good thing in helping build better social skills in a child with ASD. He can actually talk to people and not worry about eye contact or can drop out of a conversation whenever he wants without that awkwardness of just walking away from someone mid sentence. That's something we all wouldn't mind at some point!

Calling all Gamers

So the question I have for you guys and gals: do you have an ASD gamer in your family or are you, yourself, on the spectrum and a gamer? If yes, what game(s) do they/you play and have you noticed the same increase in social capabilities?

I ran into a company last year at PAXEast that was developing software for eye-tracking capabilities; are there any companies that are focusing on other disabilities or disorders? Should there be?

 

I don't necessarily enjoy the thought of my son sitting in front of a computer all day (not that I haven't done it myself) but when he is able to interact with others in a way that is very rare, I find it hard to complain. My goal is to take him to MineCon in the very near future as a kind of award for taking a big social leap forward. Maybe we will see some of you there!

Featured Contributor

Lifelong gamer. Console, PC and Table Top. I like them all! I'm also a jack of all trades type of guy. My kiddos are gamers as well which is wonderful as a gamer dad! My youngest son and I have also ventured into the world of game development which has been quite the experience.

Published Oct. 27th 2017
  • Gareth Cadamy (MaxUrsa)
    The 'rise' in autism is not so much that there is more of it, that it is become more readily recognised. Autism is also often secondary to congenital defects that were consistantly fatal little over 15 years ago.
    My eldest son was born nearly 7 years ago, 6 weeks early after a difficult pregnancy and weighing 3lb. Two weeks later we were told he had a major heart condition known as tetralogy of fallot. If not for modern medicine he would have been dead. He had surgery to repair his heart when he was 18months old and we were told then that a high number of cases like my son are later found to have autism.
    we are currently battling with the local system to have him recognised.

    on the subject of him gaming, he loves playing minecraft and landmark with me. To play himself, he enjoys tablet games such as angry birds for their rigid and predictable physics and interactions. As for him playing online on his own, hes a long way off yet in ability and online smarts.o
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    I know a young gamer with ASD and he too loves Minecraft. It leads him to ask all sorts of interesting questions that can lead to good conversations about science and social interaction, and has even gotten him more interested in vegetables thanks to the in game crops.

    I sincerely hope the folks at Minecraft know and appreciate the wonderful, like-as-not unintended, impact their game has had for many people.

    As far as other companies looking to make gaming accessible, AbleGamers does a lot in that area, and some peripheral manufactures like Stinky Board are targeted at making gaming easier for people with disabilities.
  • Federico Senence
    Featured Contributor
    I would love to pose that question to the folks at Mojang to see if they realize the impact the game has had on many with ASD. I'll have to research AbleGamers as that name doesn't ring a bell at the moment, but I did run across the Stinky Board last year at PAXEast!
  • Andrei Manolache
    Contributor
    Gaming is actually considered a drug. Actually let me rephrase that... a psychological drug. While we play, our feelings and memories access a sensitive part of our brain, where narcotics usually react and dopamine (the stuff that makes us happy) is released. So yeah, all kind of weird chemical reactions happen, with our brain, when we play games.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I'd just like to add that the rise in autism can be almost entirely attributed to the medical establishment pumping expecting mothers full of entirely unnecessary medication. Outside of that, the amount of medication people are taking that aren't even prescribed by doctors is just out of control. Anti-depression drugs have been known to cause dozens of birth defects; autism being only one of them.

    It's not some bizarre mystery. It's drugs. In situations like this, it almost always is.

    That being said, I'm not sure about gaming autism. I suppose it could help increase attention span, but at the same time, I'm fairly certain that fast-moving video games are at least partially responsible for the attention problems we already have. So, it's hard to say.

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