Families now live in the modern age, and this means that children spend a lot of time on their digital devices. This means that children all over the world are hooked on mobile phones, tablets and video games. There is still some discussion about what is the correct amount of time to spend on these devices. Some suggest that children should spend as little time with them as possible, while others think it is much better to focus on a healthy relationship with them.
However, much of the discussion around digital devices has focused on neurotypical children. Children who are autistic can find themselves out of the conversation for a long time and deserve a seat at the table. Moms may not know how to navigate devices when it comes to their child with autism.
They may not know if the recommended time limit applies to their children or if the benefits (or drawbacks) are the same, and this can be confusing. They may see them as great tools for their children, and they may be right. There are a few ways that video games are healthy for autistic children, and we’ll discuss them now.
go with what works
There has been work looking at video games and autistic children, and some researchers believe that if video games are helping autistic children, perhaps they should be designed specifically for them.. According to Science, children with autism spend twice as much time playing video games as children without autism.
It seems that video games, by nature, are set up to appeal to children with autism. Common features of the game, such as predefined “roles” and goals, and a certain level of repetition can be comforting for children with autism. Children with autism are attracted to technology, so they want to change the design to focus on certain interventions.
Some other studies have shown that playing video games can help autistic children with their sense of balance, attention span, and gaze control. Researchers are currently trying to make sure this is known and transferred to real life, and if they can do this, this could change the way autism is treated.
Children with autism are known to struggle with social skills. They have difficulty interacting with peers in face-to-face situations, and video games may help alleviate this. According to the AANE, Video games can help autistic children practice social skills in a safe environment for them. In some games, like world of warcraftchildren can interact with others through play.
This allows them to practice their social skills without the pressure of being in front of someone and having to make eye contact. They can learn to communicate with others in a much less threatening way, and since everyone involved is interested in the game, they don’t have to think about what to talk about.
it’s ok to fail
It has also been found that children on the spectrum can have problems with the stress of making mistakes. This can cause discomfort and restlessness that can amount to some negative behaviors. Video games are all about making mistakes, and this type of scenario can help kids get used to the idea of making mistakes, again, in a safe and controlled space. They may be more comfortable with the idea that they are not perfect and that they can actually learn from their mistakes. A loss in a video game can sometimes help teach someone how to win the next time they try.
Bringing video games to real life
One of the biggest obstacles to using video games with autistic children, as helpful as they are, is that it can be difficult to transfer the skills they learn in the game into the real world and into real relationships. Mom has to make sure her son can take those skills he’s been practicing and perfecting, and apply them to the real world. According to Autism Parenting magazine, this requires a bit of mediation.
When parents find their children in real life situations where they need to interact with their peers, mom can remind them what they are doing when they play. Maybe you can ask the other child if he likes video games and you will find a common interest. It can be helpful to make sure a child is exposed to a variety of play so they can work on different skills and find more potential social partners who have a common interest.
Sources: Science, AANE, Autism Parenting Magazine