Video Games Can Be Helpful for Autistic Individuals

An occupational therapist explained in an interview with Marketplace on Tuesday that she has found video games to be helpful for those with autism.

Amanda Foran works with both autistic children and adults and is the director of occupational therapy at Motion Therapy in Rockville, Maryland.

Foran encourages families with an autistic child to look for video games with simple rules that also tend to be very interactive, such as tennis or boxing. Seek out “games that offer the motion capture technology, that shows the individual on the screen instead of an abstract character,” Foran says.

Video games can be a meaningful physical activity for those on the autism spectrum. Foran particularly likes the Xbox Kinect because it encourages full body motion. Also, it doesn’t require any handheld controller, which is good for autistic people who may have limited fine motor control or coordination.

Foran explains that video games can also help build autistic people’s social interaction skills if the games are played with a partner. Therefore, families should encourage them to play with siblings or peers. Foran points out that many people on the autism spectrum are already skilled at playing video games, so this may provide them with the opportunity to act as the expert.

When asked about any concerns for the competitiveness that naturally is part of video games, Foran states that it’s not face-to-face competition. They are looking at a screen, which makes the competitiveness less threatening.

Foran drives home her point by explaining that people with autism desire to engage socially, but they might not have the underlying skills to do so. Or perhaps their sensory and language differences create challenges in communication. Technology like video games can help to make this communication somewhat more comfortable for those with autism.

“People just blossom when they’re playing,” Foran says.

To listen to the interview go to: http://www.marketplace.org/topics/tech/mind-games-mental-health-and-virtual-reality/video-games-and-autism-spectrum

By Rachel Schranck