Video game helps autistic children with social interaction

Posted by Lydia Leavitt

Psychology professor Carrie Pritchard is creating a computer game not just for fun, but to help teach autistic children social skills. Pritchard - who received  a $20,000 grant for the project - plans to design the educational video game with a focus on interaction and responsibility.

"The player is going to have choices about more skilled and less skilled behaviors they could enact after a character invites them or engages them," explained Pritchard.

A Lancaster freshman working on the project named Seth Hutchins added, "[The game is] all about giving the player choices and having them take responsibility."

According to Pritchard, one of the main reasons autistic children "play video games like crazy" is that it’s something they’re good at, which keeps them from having to interact with others.

She goes on to explain that video games are a particularly viable way to teach autistic kids social skills because it’s presented in a format they are comfortable with.

Still, the emphasis isn’t all on interaction, but rather, more of a hidden message within the game.

The inspiration behind the game was Pritchard’s son who was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism.

Although she admits there are challenges, she says, "Kids with autism have a lot of specific skills that we don’t possess that are so special. I consider it more of a difference."

To work on the game, Pritchard hired three Western Kentucky Unversity students to write the script and dialogue for the video game’s characters. Her goal is to use the $20,000 grant to develop the game and to obtain an additional small business loan to complete and market the game.

(Via WKU Herald)