By Tracey Dowdy
The rules about screen times became obsolete once virtual learning became the norm. Trying to balance how much is too much has long been debated, but there is no question that educators and parents can help students strengthen skills through play. It’s a proven strategy to help kids learn.
Video games offer particular advantages to students with special needs. These students can improve communication, small motor skills, spatial and organizational skills, and even improve their social skills through gaming.
While many games are designed to improve specific skills geared to special needs children, many mainstream games offer similar benefits. Here are a few.
Communication Caroline Knorr, Common Sense Media’s parenting editor, says, “Games that use visual storytelling, social modeling, and language patterns can help kids with speaking, listening, and communicating.” Suggested games: Moving Out; Overcooked; Among Us; Keep Talking, and Nobody Explodes; The Jackbox Party Pack 7.
Motor Skills Games that encourage your kids to get up and get moving, whether dancing, sports, stretching, drawing, or handwriting, will improve muscle memory and put a name to an action. Suggested games: Beat Saber; Just Dance 2021; Ring Fit Adventure.
Organization Children who struggle with executive functioning skills – transitioning between activities, time management, completing a list of tasks, developing a new routine – struggle in areas neurotypical children find less complex. Playing games that emphasize visual scheduling or break down lists into more manageable tasks help build confidence and equip them with the tools to accomplish more than they thought they could do. Suggested games: Minecraft; Nintendo Labo Toy-Con Variety Kit; Dreams.
Reading and Writing Children who struggle with written rather than verbal instructions will benefit from games that offer both and break down instructions into small steps and allow players to focus on their strengths. The confidence boost enables them to face more demanding challenges, expanding their vocabulary and reading and writing skillsets. Suggested games: Elegy for a Dead World; Layton’s Mystery Journey: Katrielle and the Millionaires’ Conspiracy – Deluxe Edition; Scribblenauts Mega Pack.
Social Interaction Some special needs children need help learning to identify facial expressions, the appropriate time to wait for responses during conversations. These games offer safe, supported chatting that can go a long way in developing practical social skills. Suggested games: Assemble with Care; Unravel; Doki Doki Universe.
Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits, and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.