Video games have quickly integrated into the global culture and become one of the most beloved hobbies in the world. The diversity of games and platforms for playing has made gaming one of the most innovative industries. For children and teens with autism, video games can function as a hobby, but there are surprising benefits for people with autism that researchers are beginning to realize. Gaming can be therapeutic and remove certain barriers for young people with autism, leading to better social lives and peer interaction. As the industry expands and diversifies, researchers are learning how to use video games to teach young people vital information in an interactive way. The future that gaming holds for people with autism is already here and the benefits of video gaming only look to improve in the future. While we might not use video games actively at Lexington Services, the exciting future that the industry holds, particularly when it comes to jobs for people with autism, it’s hard to deny their importance in our community.
Video Games And Social Interaction
Interacting in the digital world with the backdrop of video games has become a staple for kids growing up. Gaming has evolved a lot from the arcades of the 80’s and 90’s and the industry continues to grow. For people with autism, video games offer a great conduit for social expression that minimizes the social anxiety and the pressures of face to face interaction. Video games give kids the opportunity to interact with friends and creatively problem or apply critical thinking in a fun digital environment. Interacting in game removes a lot of the pressure of reading social cues and creates social bonds over a shared common interest. The struggle then, for many parents and guardians, is balancing video game time with the need for other interactions. Moderation is key, as with anything good in life. Kids with autism are more likely to be at risk for the negative effects of video game addiction, as more than 41% of kids with autism spend a majority of their time playing video games. An article on the Asperger Experts websites suggests that the best way to combat addiction, isolation, and associated health issues is to set a schedule or a time limit, as well as to practice playing as a family with social games like Guitar Hero, Rockband or Just Dance which encourage social bonding, teamwork and exercise.
Game Technology And Learning
After the advent of the digital age, there was a large gap between teachers that wanted to maintain a more traditional learning model and students whose entire lives were shaped by the digital landscape. Luckily, people have found ways to incorporate digital learning into traditional models. And more than that, researchers are actually finding that kids are learning through platforms like video games. When it comes to kids with ASD, video games are a great tool for teachers to connect and for them to learn. Video games provide a unique opportunity for teachers and therapists help kids develop their executive functions, improving cognitive flexibility, self-awareness and self-control in a safe environment. For example, a video game has been developed by the University of Wisconsin-Madison with the aim of helping kids recognize different emotions or react to different social cues, developing empathy in a fantastical scenario. If the technology continues to grow like this, video games could be a permanent part of any teaching model for kids with ASD.
The Future Of Jobs In Video Games
The video game industry also supports the autism community when it comes to employment. Even though research has proven that people with autism have a lower rate of turnover and they are more productive than their peers, the statistics for adult employment are abysmal. Only 14% of adults with autism work full time and only 20% are employed consistently at all. Yet the video game industry has become a welcoming place for those in the autism community where they can find work, perform at a high level with equal compensation to their peers and also be free of the social pressure that comes with a typical 9-5. The tech industry is a safe harbor for people with autism, as many people with ASD find some familiarity or comfort with game design. Organizations the nonPareil Institute in Dallas and Semperical in Silicon Valley were created with the specific goal of training and employing people with autism. As more and more companies update their disability hiring practices, we can be confident in the autism community that video games will help bridge the cavernous employment gap for people with autism.
It’s amazing to see how the world has changed and how an industry has evolved around video games in less than a 60 year period. If anything, video games have helped create a grand opportunity for people with autism and we always admire when technology can bridge gaps that only a few generations were completely misunderstood.
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