9/28 – “Can science-based video games help kids with autism?” Deirdre Kelshaw

In “Can science-based video games help kids with autism?” Sarah DeWeerdt argues that autistic children are more drawn to technology, and thus video games can serve therapeutic purposes for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. 

DeWeerdt proves this idea by exploring numerous video games that have been designed for autistic children and discusses their positive results on improving numerous abilities, such as balance, attention and gaze control. For example, a series of mini video games created by James Tanaka (a cognitive psychologist at the University of Victoria in Canada) was one of the first games for autism to show improvements in a  randomized controlled trial. In the trial, 42 children with autism who played the games for 20 hours got better at recognizing facial expressions and at related tasks. There are many examples of this type of influential work  discussed in this article, however, unfortunately, the gaming industry works with bigger budgets and faster timelines than research labs typically do, making it difficult for these types of games to be competitive. In fact, according to a directory created by the organization Autism Speaks, out of more than 700 apps, games and other digital resources intended for people with autism or their families, only around 5 percent of those have scientific data backing their effectiveness. 

Reading this article, video games geared towards autistic children makes a lot of sense. As mentioned in the article, boys with autism spend almost twice as much time playing video games as neurotypical boys do. It is clear that in this way, technology can provide a solution to improving certain abilities that autistic individuals may have trouble developing. Not only are video games a safe and comfortable way to try new things out, but the goal of video games is to reach certain levels. In order to reach the next level, one must keep attempting to do so by repeating certain behaviors and learning from past experiences. By doing so, I believe that nearly anyone who plays video games will get better at playing with enough practice. In this way, I think there is great potential for video games to help autistic children. My question is, can video games serve to improve other diagnoses, such as ADHD, anxiety, depression, OCD, etc.? I ask this, as these diagnoses are often interlinked. Does it depend on the individual? Does it depend on age?

2 thoughts on “9/28 – “Can science-based video games help kids with autism?” Deirdre Kelshaw

  1. You pose an interesting question, and a good point that with practice many people can improve video game playing skills. In terms of whether or not video game playing can aid in treating other diagnoses, I would imagine the severity of the condition plays a big role. Additionally, all of the other disorders you mentioned currently have prescription medications to aid in treatment, which I would imagine are probably a more straight-forward treatment method. However, video game playing/practice could be a more holistic treatment for people whose diagnoses allow.

  2. I like your reflections and questions in the last paragraph. The “Project: EVO” can help to improve the ability for children with autism as well as ADHD. So, from my perspective, I believe that some games that designed for autism can be applied in treating ADHD patients as well. I also think that autism may have different levels, and different games would probably need to be designed to help different levels of autism.

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