Can Video Games Facilitate Communication?

There have been online debates as to whether a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) should engage with video game playing. Some debaters are pro and give the argument that video games give their children pleasure, help parents by engrossing their child long enough that they can attend to the needs of other family members, and may indeed teach their child skills.

I am not here to put my “Psychologist Stamp of Affirmation” for either side. I actually wish to pose the question to all the readers and generate a conversation.  Moreover, I would like to give some strategies on how perhaps a child can engage with video game playing AND be exposed to socialization skills at the same time.

  1. Children who play video games should not play violent games that exceed their emotional developmental maturity levels. This is not only for children who are ASD, but, in my humble opinion- ANY CHILD! Period! Nor should they watch others. There are ratings on video games, like movies and TV shows, for a reason.
  2. Children with ASD may benefit from learning visual motor skills through video games. Also, social skills may be taught via some games that have “virtual worlds” where the avatars are life-like and the situations are those that simulate “everyday” circumstances.
  3. Video games that have gross motor capabilities, such as the Wii, may encourage gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Adults beware, however, the Wii should not be attempted without warm-ups and some time limits. (Take it from one who went from Wii to WHOA!! with back problems!)
  4. There can be considerable turn taking or tandem playing with video games. Thus, giving all children opportunities to “co-exist” in the same playing space, learning to wait and take turns and also to perhaps banter back and forth.
  5. As with all forms of play, a child should only be involved with video games in moderation and supervised. Consider using video play as a reward or for breaks between arduous tasks versus “just because”.

I would be interested in your opinions, thoughts, and experiences. Let’s continue this discussion in the comment section below.

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Louise Sattler, NCSP, MS About Louise Sattler, NCSP, MS

Louise is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist and a contributor to the JustAsk forum on She has been teaching American Sign Language for over 20 years and can be found at Signing Families.

  • Elise

    i absolutely agree with everything you said. So often there is just an absolute when it comes to video games for children on the autism spectrum. it is refreshing to hear another voice. We let our children play video games since they were very little.In fact game play is a terrific social tool. Patience and thought and learning how to deal with disappointment as well come with game play…you can't always make it to the next level on every try.

    Great tips.

  • Anonymous

    My 5yr old son with autism loves playin the family Wii. The games I tend to buy though are the ones for more then 1 player so he has to play with his brothers and sisters. Its helped greatly with the whole "its not always about me" issues we have with him


    I agree that there are benefits to video game play. Though we are experiencing neurological issues from video game play. My son will have jags of severe stuttering and incontinence after paying certain game systems. Our Neurologist had tried to convince me that if they were in fact a problem for him , he would stop…though I see it becoming very addictive. We have another appointment with a different practice to rule out seizures.. In the mean time the games have been put away. Has anyone else experienced these type of reactions from video game play?

  • Special-Ism

    MomToNam, thank you for contributing to this discussion. Yes, video games can exacerbate some neurological issues and increase the risk of seizures in those with a seizure disorder. I agree, gaming can become quite addictive to some and parents should exercise their best judgement as you have done. In our home, video gaming is played with moderation as it can increase irritability.