Minecraft Can Help Kids with Autism

Posted by | March 19, 2015 | Opinion | No Comments
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This article originally appeared on LearningWorksForKids.com, a site dedicated to talking about games and technology in relation to “alternative learners,” which includes kids with learning disabilities, dyslexia, autism, and ADHD. We’re excited to have a relationship with LearningWorks For Kids, cross-posting articles and supporting each other in emphasizing the positive aspects of gaming and technology. In this post, Dr. Randy Kulman talks about how sandbox games like Minecraft can help kids with autism.

If you haven’t heard of the game Minecraft, there’s a good chance you’ve been living on a different planet from your children over the past few years. Minecraft is what is known as a “sandbox” game. It’s in an open virtual world where the player does not need to have any particular goals or direction in mind in order to experience success. Minecraft is a game of discovery, construction, and learning. It’s being used in a variety of school settings to teach skills like mathematics, physics, history, and reading comprehension. In addition, sandbox games like Minecraft can help kids with autism develop creativity, flexibility, and other important thinking skills.

minecraft autism

Minecraft is a great game to play with your kids.

Children who play Minecraft practice a variety of thinking and problem-solving skills on a regular basis, like planning when designing a new building or mapping out a farm, flexibility when learning to “craft” new objects, and organizational skills to keep track of materials they have accumulated and ensure that they are safe from enemy creatures. There is evidence that Minecraft’s use of thinking skills may be particularly helpful for children affected by autism. Many parents of children with autism have touted the positive power of the game in engaging their children. While there are legitimate concerns that some autistic children can become obsessed with their Minecraft play, there remain a number of strategies that can be used to make sandbox games like Minecraft into great opportunities for learning.

Here’s how to help kids with autism get the most out of sandbox games like Minecraft.

  • Make the time to play the game with your child. At the very least observe them playing. You may need to ask them to slow down their building and exploration in order for you to understand what they are doing. Asking them questions about the game can be a great exercise for both of you.
  • Encourage your child to work on a specific task in the game. Preferably find something that requires the use of planning and organizational skills. Ask them if they can go beyond simply exploring and build you a house or set up a farm.
  • Take Minecraft and other sandbox games beyond the console or computer. Encourage them to build with Legos, design and construct a fort in the backyard, or learn more about the actual mining and discovery of materials that make up today’s buildings and objects.

Randy Kulman

About Dr. Randy Kulman

Randy Kulman, PhD, is the Founder and President of LearningWorks for Kids, an educational technology company that specializes in using video games to teach executive functioning and academic skills. For the past 25 years, Dr. Kulman has also been the Clinical Director and President of South County Child and Family Consultants, a multidisciplinary group of private practitioners that specializes in assessment and interventions for children with learning disorders and attention difficulties.