“Life-changing” and a “miracle” are what some parents are calling the new mobile application, Pokémon go. Although the effects have yet to be studied, some are finding this virtual reality one that is changing the lives of their children forever by encouraging those with autism to socialize and interact with others.
If you’ve been following coverage of the cultural sensation Pokémon go, the mobile application that has caught on like wild fire, you may have seen the negative actions it has stirred up. From people trying to play while driving, walking into traffic, even some instances have resulted in car crashes, then you’ve seen the worst of what any mobile application can cause. As a free location-based application developed to encourage users to explore their environment using the applications augmented reality features, it was made to be a fun and engaging way to explore one’s surroundings. Regardless of what you might have heard, this application has proved to actually have a beneficial impact on kids; especially for those with autism spectrum disorders. Although this game has been portrayed as a potentially dangerous act, with proper supervision this application has created a platform that lowers the social divide between those with special needs and those without.
Children with autism spectrum disorders, or ASD, typically have complications with their language and sensory processing. It’s difficult for them to adequately analyze information in order to provide appropriate responses making social interactions overwhelming and for some, of children with ASD have been seen on Autism Speaks, CNN, even the Today show. What all of these featured stories for these family have in common though is the heartwarming notion that this amazing application has helped their children hit milestones they’ve never seen before.
Most have stated that their children typically have epic meltdowns with strong emotional and physical reactions to social situations, making it difficult to get them out in public. However all of that has changed with the help of this augmented-reality game.
Here are the 5 surprising benefits for those with special needs that no other application has been able to provide so far.
1) Increasing Sensory Input
Children with ASD tend to be prone to hyper-focus, a mental concentration that focuses their consciousness on a specific task. With Pokémon Go’s visual stimulus, it has helped pull together all of that focused energy on obtaining Pokémon instead of daydreaming or getting lost in their thoughts. Some parents have even stated that this sensory intriguing game has opened their child’s minds so much that their children use more of their senses than they ever have. From climbing to running, these children are motivated to go outside their normal comfort level and explore their communities with excitement, which is something many parents have never seen before.
2) Build Family Bonds
Many have found that Pokémon go has created incredible bonding opportunities with their children. Since supervision is recommended, it’s an amazing way to get active and get outside together allowing them to connect further than just through what a normal video game would ever be able to do.
3) Acceptance and social Inclusion
In addition to growing family relations, many children with ASD are now welcome to play with others helping them to build relationships outside of their normal environment. The game gives them a common interest helping those with special needs to be able to socialize with other children. It allows them to finally feel accepted and included in a group of people that they normally would feel separated from. According to parents, their children’s anxiety of social interaction melts away and their increased motivation and excitement sparks a connection with the other kids allowing them to continuously find new friends and feel a part of something much bigger than themselves.
4) Reciprocal conversations
Individuals who would otherwise not be compelled to leave the confinement of their own home have changed up their routine and have started to engage with the environment around them. One mother even stated that her son who “normally locks himself way in his mind and keeps to himself” has become an active social butterfly. He has learned eye contact, initiates conversations regarding Pokémon including asking questions and even taking the time to acknowledge what others are discussing.
McPartland, director of Yale’s Developmental Disabilities clinic, says that Pokémon go involves a finite set of interesting characters that is consistent and stable. Kids with autism often like things that is list-based or concrete,” which is why they are very good at learning and memorizing things. So it’s not only a shared area of interest; it’s an area where a child who has ASD can shine. It’s this knowledge and excitement that allows them to lower the border of social anxiety and participate in what would be a normal conversation.
5) Sense of Accomplishment
Many children with special needs normally struggle socially making it hard for them to feel good about themselves, especially in front of others. Sure this game is amazing for their education and gaining experience in areas otherwise difficult for them to achieve, but what this game has truly done is impact the child themselves. They’re being praised and hearing, “way to go” and “you rock”, boosting their confidence and motivating them to push themselves past a limit they never thought was possible.
This type of excitement is what every parent is proud to see in a child. Although a video game or phone application is not typically where most parents would like to see their attention driven to. For some, it might just be one of the best things that have ever happened to them. It’s not just a video game that’s a distraction, it’s an app that is breaking their child out of their comfort zone and teaching skills any parent of a child with ASD has dreamed about. It’s an app that’s changing lives.