Video games always seem to be a hot topic of conversation, especially when it comes to how they impact kids. For years, there have been debates about video game violence, whether they contribute to obesity, and how they affect and impact growing minds.
So, it should come as no surprise that there has been plenty of discord surrounding the effects of video games on people with autism.
For both children and adults on the spectrum, there are a variety of pros and cons to consider when it comes to video games. Some people with autism might become so distracted by a game that they tune out the rest of the world. Or, they might have a hard time transitioning from gameplay to other daily activities.
But, it’s important to look at the benefits that video games can provide for those on the spectrum, including fostering opportunities for shared interests with peers, and joint attention that they normally don’t receive.
Video games can also help people with autism cultivate real-world skills. Not only can those skills be used in everyday problem-solving and social settings, but they can help to prepare those on the spectrum for the workforce.
Whether you have a child with autism or you’re an adult on the spectrum, recognizing some of those benefits and using video games to your advantage can make a big difference. So, how exactly can they help?
Not everyone on the spectrum is an introvert, but many might have unconventional leadership styles. Autism shouldn’t be something that blocks an individual from moving up in the workforce, leading a team, or even owning their own business. Even if you know someone on the spectrum who is more introverted, they can foster their natural listening skills and analytical nature using video games. Gaming helps to grow leadership abilities by:
- Leveraging technology for team building
- Boosting problem-solving skills
- Encouraging the use of analytical skills
- Improving communication
Playing video games is also a great way for anyone – not just those on the spectrum – to boost their self-esteem. However, that’s an incredibly important benefit for kids with autism who might have a hard time “fitting in” elsewhere. Getting confidence through gaming can help them to take more risks while weighing out potential consequences and rewards. In the workforce, those who show that kind of confidence are the ones who end up being leaders, rather than followers.
Social settings and communicating with others can be a struggle for those on the spectrum. But, most careers require some type of teamwork or collaboration. Video games are a great way for people with autism to boost their social skills and learn how to be a part of a team. That’s especially true when it comes to esports. It gives people a chance to “play” as a team and offers rewards and incentives for winning.
Additionally, esports can help to foster soft skills like competitiveness and self-confidence. They can help those on the spectrum recognize the importance of a competitive nature in the workforce and how using their skills can earn them “rewards” in the real world (ie; promotions, a pay raise, a different position).
Even people who play roleplaying games or live-action multi-player games can improve their social interaction skills. Most of these games require players to work in small groups or teams. Whether it’s to complete a quest or take down another team, these games disguise the benefits of teamwork behind fun and excitement, but social skills are being built beneath the surface.
A Positive Psychological Impact
Studies have shown that people with autism tend to have higher rates of depression than the general population. Often, it’s associated with higher intelligence. However, mental health issues can also be triggered by frustration over communication issues, not “fitting in”, or a lack of self-esteem.
Though there continues to be a lot of debate about the mental benefits of video games, research shows that regular gameplay can help with conditions like:
Video games serve as so much more than a form of entertainment. They can boost a player’s mood and fight back against self-defeating narratives and negative self-talk. That could be exactly what someone on the spectrum needs to increase their confidence and step out into the workforce. While gaming shouldn’t be used as a substitute when mental health treatment is needed, it’s an everyday resource that can be used to improve mental well-being – especially if your child already enjoys it.
The back-and-forth regarding the impact of video games on people with autism is likely to continue. But, there’s no denying the help gaming can provide for people with autism when it comes to cultivating real skills. Whether your child is an avid gamer or you’re on the spectrum yourself, don’t shut down the system just yet. Instead, consider how you can take advantage of these benefits so they ensure greater success and confidence in the working world.