How games like Minecraft are helping kids with Autism
OK, that may be a slight exaggeration.
But my eight-year-old, at least, is totally obsessed with this online game that lets him create his own world by mining and harvesting different substances and then combining them to build exactly what he wants.
To my eyes Minecraft looks incredibly old – the graphics and sound effects are so simple and the point of the game is so rudimentary – but I think it’s the simplicity that kids find so appealing.
Personally, I’m sick to death of hearing about mobs and endermen, villagers and zombies. But today, I have a new respect for the game.
That’s because Minecraft (and, to be fair, certain other online games) really appeals to children with autism. It’s very visual, it’s creative – though in a logical, structured way – and it also promotes social skills, something that autistic kids struggle with.
Craig Smith, who features in my story, actually took a bunch of his students and made a video where the kids pretended to enter the Minecraft world (in reality, a beach somewhere on the New South Wales coast) and began negotiating their new environment. They had to communicate, explore and work together – and they loved it.
Even better, Minecraft is portable. Autistic kids can carry it with them on a tablet or smartphone and that enevitably draws other “normal” kids to them, helping them to practice interaction with peers.
So for all those times I cursed this game, I take it back. Anything that plays to the strengths of autistic children and helps them integrate is OK by me.
To see how teachers can incorporate Minecraft – and other obsessions that autistic kids latch on to – into their learning environment and enhance their literacy and numeracy, watch my story.