my autistic son was delayed in language and social skills and had few
outside of trains or videotapes, he was inspired, or shall we say
with one particular item. My Computer. Jackson, now 7 years
took a very early liking to computers. Back in infancy he'd
from my lap to reach the computer as I typed articles, or from his
seat he'd thrust his foot in the air and lean toward the glowing screen
that captivated him. This love of computers broadened to include any
visual, interactive games you find at the local arcade. As we
into the pizza place or mall he would lean and wriggle trying to get
to play the games he was so instinctively drawn to. (Let me
I am talking a toddler, not even 2 years old yet with this intense
We were puzzled by this high interest but continued to deny his chance
to play the games since we were trying to raise our son in a
method. We weakened and decided to let him play pin-ball games
they are pretty violence-free and could even help with eye-hand
we noticed how any time Jackson was able to use a video game system, at
a relative's house or at the store demo area, he excelled. He
easily defeat your average player-as a 4 year old he could defeat an
This was amazing given his delays in language and understanding and his
social and emotional difficulties-He was delayed by about 2.5 years in
other areas yet in this highly visual area he excelled. This was
for him and also had a self-calming effect. Soon after realizing how
video games could be for my son I softened and we got him his first
After observing and playing with my son and his video games for the
3 years I now often encourage other parents of autistic children to
this type of toy for their very visual children. Video games provides
visual patterns, speed and storyline that our kids love while helping
refine basic skills that they might not grasp in your normal everyday
They also allow our unique kids an acceptable way to de-stress and
out while increasing their knowledge of peer-related topics.
* As with
interaction is VITAL with video games. Sit with your child, play with
child and learn from your child.
Some of the
benefits my son has gotten from his use of video games:
1. Language -
Discussing and sharing.
Following directions (understanding prepositions etc.)
Having a discussion topic with visual aides to share with me
2. Basic Math and Reading Skills-
One day Jackson surprised me by answering my question of how many red
he had by saying, "I have 5, I need 3 more!" WHAT? Yes,
during playing and fun the basic math skills of addition had sunk
- just the fun and excitement of Mario collecting red
same week during speech therapy the SLP was trying to get
count to 5
with him-she was stunned to here me say he could count to 100 if needed
and he already knows addition. The key is finding what is
and learning will click.)
When the games are being played the instructions and any character
on the screen, this works great as sight-reading fuel.
could read were PLAY, QUIT, GO, STOP, JACKSON,
and HI-- all words from the computer or video games.
3. Social Skills -
Having an interest that is popular with other children makes talking and
together so much easier. At the playground there is usually at
video game fanatic that is happy to jump into re-enacting Mario 64 or
Star Fox with Jackson.
Imaginative play booster. (especially with the figurines out now at
Since our autistic children are many times so visual, this leads
to re-enacting the storylines with play figures or Beanie Babies.
leads to more play skills later, as the learned acting out
to other toys and even includes friends and family.