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Levelling Up: Building Independence Through Gaming for Young Autistic People

Gaming in all its forms has long been celebrated for its entertainment value, but its benefits extend far beyond mere enjoyment, especially for young autistic adults. In this blog post, we’ll explore how gaming can be a powerful tool for empowering and building independence. From enhancing cognitive skills to promoting social interaction, gaming offers many opportunities for personal growth and development.

Understanding the Power of Gaming for Young Autistic People

Before we launch into why gaming can be a transformative experience for autistic people, it’s essential to understand more about autism.

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental condition that affects how a person interacts with others, communicates, and experiences the world around them. It’s characterised by various symptoms and challenges, varying greatly from person to person and between males and females.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, which means that individuals can experience it in different ways and to varying degrees of severity. According to betterhealth.com.au common characteristics include:

  • difficulties interpreting social rules and body language, which can lead to confusion or misunderstandings
  • difficulty in forming and maintaining friendships
  • a tendency to take things literally, which can lead to communication difficulties.

Autism can’t be cured, which is why the right support and understanding are crucial.

Gaming provides young autistic adults with a platform to explore, learn, and connect in ways that traditional forms of therapy and education may not. Through gaming experiences, autistic individuals can develop a range of essential skills, including problem-solving, decision-making, and emotional regulation.

Cognitive Skills Through Gaming - Ignition Gamers

Building Cognitive Skills Through Gaming

One of the key benefits of gaming for autistic individuals is its ability to enhance cognitive skills. From honing spatial awareness in puzzle games to improving attention and focus in video action games, the interactive nature of gaming stimulates various areas of the brain.

Studies have found improvements in areas like reading, mathematics, academic performance, concentration and reaction time. By engaging in strategic gameplay, like that experienced in the popular Dungeons & Dragons tabletop game, individuals can sharpen their problem-solving abilities and enhance their critical thinking skills, in a world that is somewhat more controllable than the real world. 

Fostering Social Interaction and Communication

Despite popular belief, gaming can be a social activity that allows individuals to build meaningful connections and friendships, particularly for young autistic teenagers and adults.

Online multiplayer games provide a platform for individuals to collaborate, communicate, and cooperate with others in a virtual environment. Through shared experiences and teamwork, gamers can develop essential social skills, such as turn-taking, empathy, and perspective-taking.

It’s also important to understand gaming from the perspective of an autistic person. In the following quote, Suzanne Roman explains why she loves gaming:

I wasn’t a weird outsider when I was playing games, I could relax, be myself and quiet my forever chattering mind. There were no obscure social cues to look out for, no need to concentrate on making eye contact for just the right amount of time nor controlling my facial expressions.’

However, while gaming behind a screen can be beneficial for autistic people, there’s another way to support real-world social interaction and communication further, and that’s through face-to-face gaming sessions

As an autistic young adult co-founder of Ignition Gamers, Will Golding, recently explained to journalist Jade Toomey from ABC News that ‘you start to lose a lot of the communication skills if you’re talking to someone behind the screen – a lot of tonality, a lot of facial expressions’.

In-person gaming helps autistic young people better understand when someone’s frustrated, sad or happy because they can see the other person’s facial expressions and body language.

Promoting Independence and Empowerment

Gaming empowers young autistic people by providing them with a sense of autonomy and control over their experiences. In the virtual realm, individuals can explore new worlds, tackle challenges, and make decisions independently, boosting their confidence and self-esteem.

Players gain a tangible sense of achievement and accomplishment by mastering gaming mechanics and progressing through levels.

Incorporating Gaming into Daily Life

To make the most out of gaming, it’s essential to integrate gaming into daily routines in a purposeful and structured manner.

Parents, educators, and support professionals can collaborate to identify suitable games and create a gaming schedule that aligns with the individual’s interests and goals. Additionally, incorporating gaming-related activities, such as game design workshops or social gaming – like that offered here at Ignition Gamers – can further enrich the gaming experience and promote skill development.

Gaming for Autistic People

Unhealthy Gaming Habits

Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room. Autistic young people are at greater risk of developing unhealthy gaming behaviours, including:

  • Gaming addiction
  • Poor sleep at night and exhaustion throughout the day
  • Aggression and poor emotional regulation outside of gameplay
  • Irritability when not gaming
  • Social isolation
  • Depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

This doesn’t mean that autistic individuals need to remove all gaming from their lives – it’s about striking a balance.

To make the most out of gaming experiences, healthy gaming habits need to be encouraged and supported. This includes:

  • Taking regular breaks and using this time to stretch, hydrate and rest eyes
  • Practicing good posture with a comfortable chair that has proper lumber support
  • Staying hydrated and choosing healthy snacks like fruit or nuts
  • Balancing gameplay with physical activity and getting outdoors
  • Encouraging good sleep habits
  • Setting limits and prioritising important tasks school, work and chores (which can be difficult once they’re young adults).

Gaming is a powerful tool for building independence in young autistic people

Gaming has the potential to be a ‘game-changer’ for young autistic individuals, offering a range of benefits that extend far beyond mere entertainment. From enhancing cognitive skills to fostering social interaction and promoting independence, gaming provides a unique platform for growth and development. By understanding the power of gaming and incorporating it into daily life in a purposeful and structured manner, you can unlock new opportunities for empowerment and skill-building.

At Ignition Gamers, we’re passionate about harnessing the transformative power of gaming to support the growth and development of young autistic individuals. Our face-to-face social gaming sessions provide a welcoming and supportive environment where participants can build social connections, develop essential skills, and unlock their full potential.

Ready to level up and join the adventure? Explore our face-to-face gaming sessions today and get in touch to learn more about how we can support you or your loved one’s journey towards independence and empowerment through gaming.

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