Unless you live under a rock, you’ve probably heard of the game that has been making people of all ages get up and get moving to catch ’em all: Pokémon Go! The once popular card game has made a comeback in the form of an app that allows you to navigate the real world in search of Pokémon, which are creatures of different size, shape, and abilities. The objective of the game is to collect as many of these creatures as possible, but in order to do so, you need to go out into the world.
Traditionally, we are used to playing video games that require us to be sitting in one place and do not offer any interaction with the world. Pokémon Go, however, is overcoming this regularity with the games requirement to get up and get moving. For children with autism, this game is proving to be an excellent tool in socialization.
Ralphie Koppelman, a 6-year-old from New York who has autism has trouble making eye contact and conversing with others– all common difficulties a child with autism faces. However, an article by The Huffington Post discusses that ever since he began playing Pokémon Go, he started “opening up to other kids, making new connections, and finding common ground with his peers.”
His mother, Lenore Koppelman, was ecstatic about the result of her son playing the game and expressed in a very emotional Facebook post that upon seeing her son interact with another child about the game for the first time, “I almost cried…My autistic child is socializing. Talking to people. Smiling at people. Verbalizing. Participating in pragmatic speech. With total strangers. Looking up at them. Sometimes even in the eye. Laughing with them. Sharing something in common. Koppelman’s mother went on to describe how her son was now begging her to go to the playground and play with others when normally, he never wants to break his routine. It’s amazing to see the difference a game has made in this boy’s life.
In other parts of the world, such as Australia, educators are also finding Pokémon Go to be useful in teaching children with autism in the classroom. Craig Smith, a teacher specializing in Autism research describes in an interview with a news website named Independent, how in classroom setting, children with autism respond better to visual learning since their brains are geared towards learning through what they see. A game such as Pokémon Go diminishes the usual social interactions they encounter which can be overwhelming and instead, makes it easier for children to engage in social interaction through a shared language that allows them to make small talk in an easier manner.
“It gives the kids the confidences to step outside of their social boundaries. I can’t think of another game that has forged this link the way Pokémon has,” Smith says. Parents have given Smith feedback in which they described how their children were motivated to go outside for the first time because they want to catch Pokémon. He believes it’s important as an educator to respect the children’s interests such as video games because that helps engage them in the learning process. Who knew an app could have such a widespread positive effect on children with autism?
If you are a parent of a child with autism, Pokémon Go is an excellent way to engage your child. To recap the benefits of this awesome game:
1. Boosts your child’s socialization and learning skills
2. Gives them a good source of exercise with all the walking required
3. Gives you an outlet to bond with your child and have fun at the same time in a new and exciting way!
Despite the incredible benefits, you must also be weary of the dangers of wandering when your child is playing this game. We urge you to keep one eye on your child at all times. So what are you waiting for? Download Pokémon Go, give it a try, and see what it can do for your child! Just remember to be safe and aware of your surroundings at all times. Get out there and catch ’em all so your child can be the very best!