Virtual Reality: Can Video Games Teach Social Skills?

 

 

 

 

A study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders reveals a distinction between uses of technology for autistics and typically developing children, suggesting further development of recreational technology tailored to develop social skills. Researchers Micah O. Mazurek and Colleen Wenstrup measure how children with autism spectrum disorder use technology in comparison to their typically developing siblings. Findings show that children with ASD spent 62% more time watching television and playing video games than in non-screen activities combined. Children with ASD showed more risk of “problematic video game use,”i spending on average about an hour more each day gaming then their typically developing siblings. However, siblings were found to spend more time using social media or socially interactive video games. Autistics often demonstrate obsessive, highly focused characteristics, which are beneficial for performance with video games. Games and tablet/phone apps for autism have been in vogue as of late and can be very useful in preparing autistics for careers. However, these programs do not take into account social stimulus. If autistics are steering clear of socially interactive video games, how do we incorporate social skills into the strategy of video games. Dr. Mazurek asserts the potential of utilizing video games for autistics saying, “Using screen-based technologies, communication, and social skills could be taught and reinforced right away. However, more research is needed to determine whether the skills children with ASD might learn in virtual realty environments would translate into actual social interactions.”[i] What games do your kids prefer and how do you think these games might be altered to strengthen social skills?

 



 

[i] “Research Finds That Video Games Hold Both Risks and Rewards for Children with Autism.” Digital Trends. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/research-finds-that-video-games-hold-both-risks-and-rewards-for-children-with-autism-spectrum-disorders/>.

 

Mazurek, Micah O., and Colleen Wenstrup. “Television, Video Game and Social Media Use Among Children with ASD and Typically Developing Siblings.” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (2012): n. pag. Springer Link. Web. 23 Apr. 2013. <http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10803-012-1659-9>.

 

Siblings and Autism

For any child, the arrival of a sibling with autism can be a big adjustment.

A 2007 Harvard Review of Psychiatry article mentions studies that document “distressing emotional reactions such as feelings of anxiety, guilt and anger” and “more adjustment problems” as well as research noting that “some siblings benefit from their experience, others seem not to be affected.” The studies used different methodology, but even so, the difference perhaps should not be surprising.  Just as no two people with autism are alike, no two siblings are alike in how they adjust to their family situation. Continue reading

Study Shows Delays In Siblings Of Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders

(Medical News Today) A new University of Miami (UM) study shows that one in three children who have an older sibling with an Autism Related Disorder (ASD) fall into a group characterized by higher levels of autism-related behaviors or lower levels of

Dr. Messinger

developmental progress. The study will be presented at the International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR) in May, 2012. ASDs are developmental conditions characterized by problems with social interaction and communication. Previously, an international consortium of researchers found that almost one in five of the younger siblings of children with an ASD themselves developed an ASD.

UM’s College of Arts and Sciences professor Dr. Daniel Messinger, presenting author of the study, says, “It is clear that the younger siblings of a child with an ASD may face challenges even if they are not themselves identified with an ASD. This new work identifies classes of outcomes in these children. We found that the majority of these high risk siblings appear to be developing normally. However, a higher than expected proportion of the children face challenges related to higher levels of autism-related behaviors or lower levels of verbal and non-verbal developmental functioning.”

The study reveals that difficulties faced by the younger siblings of children with ASD involve both lower levels of verbal and nonverbal functioning and higher levels of autism-related problems. Examples of a child’s autism-related problems – which are not as severe as those of children with an ASD – include lower levels of back-and-forth play with others and lower levels of pointing to express interest in what is going on around them.

Overall, the research says, the majority of high-risk siblings are developing typically at three years of age, but the development of a substantial minority is affected by subtler forms of ASD-related problems or lower levels of developmental functioning. Lower levels of developmental functioning and higher levels of autism-related problems in the at-risk siblings define what researchers refer to as the broad autism phenotype.

Siblings of Those with Autism

Research indicates that the majority of brothers and sisters of children with autism cope well with their experiences. That does not mean, however, that they do not encounter special challenges in learning how to deal with a sibling who has autism or a related disorder.

With more children being diagnosed with autism, and many within a family where several children are neuro-typical, it’s raised some questions on how these children feel about their sibling with autism taking more time and attention from their parents. Continue reading

Study Finds Children with Autistic Sibling Face High Risk

The largest new study was conducted across the U.S., Canada and Israel on younger siblings of children with Autism in an effort to uncover more information on the genetic component to the disorder.

Researchers found that the second child runs of risk of 19% in developing the disorder. The risk rises if the second child is boy, with the likelihood of a one in four chance. In comparison, if the second child is a girl the re-occurrence rate is 9%. 664 infants participated in the study, each with at least one sibling diagnosed with Autism. The infants were monitored from 6-8 months of age to 3 years. Continue reading