For many children, playgrounds are being replaced with the online worlds of Call of Duty or Minecraft. Children are spending their free time immersed in these worlds, playing with friends and making new ones. While the benefits of games like Minecraft are becoming apparent to educators and parents, these digital playgrounds are not without their risks. Online games create a sense of anonymity and players say and do things they simply wouldn’t in other environments. Cyberbullying is a serious concern within online games and children with autism can be easy targets.
I’m always amazed at how proficient children are with technology. Children that can’t even walk yet know how to unlock a phone and get to their favorite app. Knowing how to navigate a phone or tablet is great for children but can also be an issue if there is content on the phone you don’t want them to have access to. If you want them to play a specific game or app and not have access to the internet or youtube you can use iOS’s Guided Access feature. In the video I give a quick walkthrough of how to get to the settings and limit time and access to other apps.
Minecraft is being used in schools around the world to promote creativity, problem solving, and teamwork. The educational version, MinecraftEdu, is specifically designed for school use and provides teachers more control over the server and functionality. Children everywhere have fallen in love this game and educators have taken notice.
What makes Minecraft so fun to play (and also why it is a perfect game for children with autism) is there are no rules, no clear objectives, and no winning or losing. Kids are free to create and experiment in the world as they wish. For younger children developing early play skills, a lot can be worked on in the realm of Minecraft, including imitation, taking turns, observational learning, and pretend play. Setting up a server and playing Minecraft with a child is a good way to work on these skills that can be difficult to target in real world situations.
5 Ways to Use your Smartphone Camera to Create Learning Opportunities and Promote Generalization
1. Scavenger Hunt
If you are working on object labels or lessons like features or functions, you can create lists for the child to take pictures of around the house. If the child can’t read, you can stay with him or her and read the labels out loud. You can even time the child and have them try to beat their record!
Objects: Cup, ball, desk, pencil, clock, etc.
Features: Something with a nose, something with hair, etc.
What I love most about Toca Kitchen is that it’s not a game. Toca Boca describes their apps as “digital toys,” and once you use Toca Kitchen you’ll understand what they mean. This app is perfect for setting up learning opportunities for your kiddos because there are no game elements – no timers, objectives, winning or losing. The app allows the user to discovery and play freely. The benefit of having such an open play style is that there are a lot of possibilities to work on generalizing skills that the child already has.
When I was a therapist working with children with autism, one question that always ran through my mind was, “how do I make every activity a valuable teaching opportunity?” For me, the easy part of working with kids was the “work.” Sitting down with a child and running through a set of trials was straightforward. Discrete trial training (DTT) is structured, simple, and when done correctly, very effective. These trials help kids quickly acquire new skills and language in a very structured setting. The challenging and fun part of my job as a therapist was what happened in between those sets of trials.