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Socialization Games for Autistic Teens

by Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild

Autistic teens can benefit greatly from socialization games. Autism spectrum disorder includes a wide range of abilities and disabilities, with social disability being the most prominent, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Autism is believed to have genetic predisposition that can be influenced either positively or negatively by environment. Socialization games can help train teens to become more comfortable and skilled in social situations. Game levels should be suited to the autistic teen's developmental level, mentally and emotionally.

Simple Training Games

Autistic teens are each unique in their level of functioning and their intelligence. Some possess extremely high IQ levels while others will benefit from simple games, such as those offered by Autism Games. For example, Eric Goes to the Airport rewards the player for politely waiting in line. At the same time, it demonstrates what your teen could expect at an airport. Robbie the Robot coaches players on matching faces with emotions. The faces are displayed on the viewing screen of a robot. Your teen would need to match the facial expressions with emotion words such as sad, happy or angry. Learning to match an emotion to a face is a learned skill for those on the autism spectrum, rather than something that comes more naturally for others.

Sharing With Family

Because autistic teens have trouble interacting with others, even socializing with the family can be uncomfortable for them. Playing a game with your teen can help ease some of the tension, while providing him the chance to use his skills, such as his eye for detail. If your family has multiple computers or a video game platform hooked up to the TV, consider engaging in multiplayer games together. Traditional games, such as checkers, chess, Chinese checkers, Go or even Monopoly can be played online or at the dining room table, and the rules and structures of these types of games can be very comforting to a child of any age on the spectrum. Electronic racing games or games that involve placing shapes, such as Tetris, are also good choices. Selecting a game that involves one of your teen's special interests -- most autistic people have special interests -- will make it even more fun for him. While playing the game with your teen, role model good sportmanship.

MMO's

Massive Multiplayer online games, such as Wizard 101, World of Warcraft or Guild Wars with their complex worlds can appeal to the part of the autistic person that loves detail. And they can provide an inviting social platform; however as Wired.co.uk says this can be a double-edged sword. MMO's can be played on several levels, including simply playing the game according to directions. Most encourage players to develop groups to accomplish various feats. For teens who have trouble meeting people outside their family, MMO's can provide a chance to meet others in a less stressful way than face to face. However, it is a good idea for other family members to play with your autistic teen, as online players are not always kind and your teen might not understand some of the live player responses. MMO games social aspects may also cause autistic players anxiety, fear, or paranoia, according to Wired. Protect your teen by unobtrusively supervising group online game play.

Second Life

Second Life is an online virtual world where users can create an avatar or cartoon character to represent themselves. Some therapists use a secured area of the cyber world to play the game with autistic kids, helping them master social skills in a specific area of the game where they aren't overwhelmed, according to cognitive neuroscientist, Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD. Some autistic people find that Second Life lets them interact with others successfully. There is even a special interest group, Autism Network, that uses Second Life to hold meetings and to communicate. Some autistic teens benefit from using this program, while others find even the online interactions difficult. For those who can use it, Second Life provides a way to interact with others.

About the Author

Daisy Peasblossom Fernchild has been writing for over 50 years. Her first online publication was a poem entitled "Safe," published in 2008. Her articles specialize in animals, handcrafts and sustainable living. Fernchild has a Bachelor of Science in education and a Master of Arts in library science.

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