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Gaming Therapy: How Minecraft Can Enhance The Social And Emotional Skills Of Children With Autism

Updated: May 1, 2023

Introduction: gaming therapy

Autism is a neurodivergent condition. It is estimated that 1 in 100 people in Australia have Autism. It is a varied condition that manifests differently in each individual, but some common symptoms include difficulties with social interaction, communication, and repetitive behaviours.

While there is no ‘cure’ for autism, there are many interventions and therapies that can help people with autism to improve their social and emotional skills. One such intervention is gaming therapy, Minecraft – a popular computer game that has been shown to enhance the social and emotional skills of children with autism.

In this article, we will take a look at how Minecraft can help children with autism

develop important social and emotional skills. We will also explore some of the other benefits of playing Minecraft.

Why is Minecraft so popular with kids with autism?

Minecraft is an incredibly popular computer game with children and young adults from all different backgrounds. However, it is particularly popular among children with autism.

There are many reasons why Minecraft can have such a positive impact on kids with autism. First of all, the game helps to improve kids’ communication and problem-solving skills. Minecraft encourages kids to talk about the game, share their ideas and collaborate on projects. It also provides a safe environment for kids to practice their communication skills, as players remain anonymous.

Furthermore, the open-ended nature of the game allows children to explore and use their imagination, which can be therapeutic and help them to develop confidence in themselves. Additionally, Minecraft helps to improve fine motor coordination and gross motor coordination, aiding in the development of basic muscles.

All of these factors make Minecraft an ideal game for children with autism and help to explain why it is so popular among this demographic.

How does playing Minecraft help kids with autism socially and emotionally?

Playing Minecraft can help kids with autism socially and emotionally in various ways. First and foremost, playing the game encourages kids to interact with other players in a safe, anonymous environment. They can learn teamwork, communication skills and social dynamics in a safe and encouraging environment.

Playing a game like Minecraft also lets kids with autism express themselves in a non-verbal way. Depending on how they choose to build and interact with their environment, they can express their personalities, interests and values without using words.

Finally, playing Minecraft can help kids with autism develop positive coping strategies for managing their emotions. Some kids may struggle to verbalize and understand their emotions, so playing Minecraft can help them to recognize and manage their emotions in a safe and productive way.

By playing Minecraft, kids with autism can gain valuable social and emotional tools to use throughout their daily lives. Through the game, they can learn how to create meaningful relationships with others, express themselves, and better manage their emotions.

Four ways Minecraft can help kids with autism social skills

1. Enhancing Self-Awareness: Minecraft can be an excellent tool for helping kids with autism to recognize their own emotions, process them, and understand how to manage them. By playing the game, kids can create different personalities and express themselves based on the avatars or characters they create.

2. Communication: Playing Minecraft can also help kids with autism to increase their eye contact and other communication skills. In this game, players take turns as they create virtual worlds. While building these virtual worlds, they can learn to communicate verbally and non-verbally with other players.

3. Problem-solving: Minecraft is the best for kids with autism - it's like a break from the craziness of day-to-day life. Plus, it helps them concentrate better and teaches them how to finish stuff even when something is hard. It's epic!

4. Increasing Imagination and Creativity: For kids with autism, imagination and creativity can be hard to come by. But Minecraft encourages different virtual world-building activities that spark creativity. By building these virtual worlds, autistic kids can express their imaginations, creating virtual cities, landscapes, and more.

4 ways Minecraft can help kids with autism emotional skills

1. Enhancing Self-Control: Minecraft can help kids with autism understand themselves better and be able to control their emotions and reactions better. The game allows players to develop their own virtual worlds, making the kids think through their actions and the effects they may have on others.

2. Strengthening Social Skills: Minecraft can help foster social skills in kids with autism. The game encourages kids to communicate with other players, helping them to understand the importance of finding common ground with others.

3. Reaching Emotional Goals: Through playing Minecraft, autistic kids can gain emotional awareness and recognize and control their emotions better. Kids can use the game to practice expressing and regulating their emotions, allowing them to learn how to recognize and manage external emotional cues.

4. Reflection and Evaluation: One of the most important skills for autistic kids is the reflection and evaluation of emotions. Minecraft can help kids learn to identify and evaluate their emotions better, allowing them to understand the cause of their feelings and figure out how to control them better.

To wrap things up

Minecraft can be a great way for kids with autism to improve their emotional and social skills. The game allows players to take control of their virtual world and teaches them to think through their actions and the effects they may have on others. It encourages players to communicate with one another, practice expressing and regulating their emotions, and encourages them to reflect on and evaluate their emotions.

With its immersive virtual world, Minecraft is a great educational tool for parents and teachers of autistic children to help them to develop their emotional and social skills. The game can be used as part of a therapeutic treatment for autism, helping to provide an environment of experimentation and learning. Minecraft can also be an entertaining way for kids with autism to have fun and gain valuable skills in the process.

Relevant articles

Colder Carras M, Van Rooij AJ, Spruijt-Metz D, et al. Commercial Video Games As Therapy: A New Research Agenda to Unlock the Potential of a Global Pastime. Front Psychiatry. 2018;8:300. Published 2018 Jan 22. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2017.00300

Ducheneaut, N. and Moore, R.J. (2005), "More than just ‘XP’: learning social skills in massively multiplayer online games", Interactive Technology and Smart Education, Vol. 2 No. 2, pp. 89-100.

Zolyomi, A. and Schmaltz, M. (2017), “Mining for social Skills: Minecraft in Home and Therapy for Neurodiverse Youth”, Proceedings of the 50th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, pp. 3391-3400, available at: 5).

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