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 Education.com. She has been teaching American Sign Language for over 20 years and can be found at Signing Families.