A game best known for fantastical creatures and perilous adventures might not be the first place parents think to look for a tool to nurture the development and growth of their children, but Dungeons and Dragons has seemed to prove itself as a creative way to help children with special needs socialize and learn.

For the uninitiated, Dungeons and Dragons is a pen and paper role-playing game that encourages participants to come up with their own personal characters, and then set out as a team to accomplish various quests and goals as facilitated by the games director the “Dungeon Master”.

The benefits of such a game stem not from the fantasy of slaying evil dragons as courageous heroes, but from the creativity of the real life players sitting around the table. Writer for Altogether Autism, Tanwen Ward, lays out a few of the key observations she made when reviewing the positive opportunities the game presents to players on the autistic spectrum:

  • The verbal nature of the game allows players to practice their social interaction skills.
  • Players are able to explore themselves through their characters, allowing them to identify ways to develop relationships with others, enhance their sense of belonging, and increase their confidence.
  • Players are able to say the effects of their actions in a secure environment, which encourages them to be more socially interested and aware of how their behavior impacts their relationships.
  • Players are given an outlet to express emotions of frustration and aggression in a way that was safe for both themselves and their peers.
  • Players are able to experience negative consequences while receiving support from their peers to better react in different scenarios.

The success of Dungeons and Dragons based programs for special needs children was documented in a CBC article written by David Burke which details Autism Nova Scotia’s program director, Yevonne Le Lacheur’s, experience with the game. Yevonne Le Lacheur’s program hosts three Dungeons and Dragons groups for special needs children bi-weekly, and notes that “as they are playing they’re working on collaboration skills, communication skills, and team building skills in a safe environment.” Players in the program report that it has allowed them to make new friends and practice working as a part of a team.

The Post author, Baylee DeMuth, sat down with Michael Spradlin, a sophomore studying industrial and systems engineering who is also an avid Dungeons and Dragons player on the autism spectrum, to get his thoughts on the game. Spradlin shared out how the game “gives you an opportunity to bond with the people around you and go through an experience with them” and provides an opportunity to develop your socialization skills since “the risk of screwing something up is lower because its a safe environment where we are just acting out characters.”

Dungeons and Dragons’ dual role as both a fun game and a creative tool make it an excellent option for those looking for a new activity that they can part-take in alongside their children, and a way to help foster their social growth.  

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