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Mind Games: Mental Health and Virtual Reality

Video games and the autism spectrum

Molly Wood Dec 3, 2013
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This week we’re looking at the relationship between video games and mental health. We’re talking to game designers, researchers and occupational therapists.

Amanda Foran is an occupational therapist who works with children and adults who are on the autism spectrum. Foran, at Motion Therapy in Rockville, Maryland, has found that video games can be a meaningful physical activity for people on the autism spectrum, and can help them engage socially:

“To start out, look for games that have simple rules. Games like tennis and boxing tend to be very easy for everyone to learn quickly and they also tend to be highly interactive. Games that offer the motion capture technology, that shows the individual on the screen instead of an abstract character.”

Foran favors the Xbox Kinect because it encourages full body motion and eliminates the need for a controller, which can be inhibiting for people with autism who may have more difficulty with fine motor skills or button sequence memorization. She also recommends playing with a partner: 

“Since many individuals on the spectrum are already skilled at playing video games, families can encourage them to play with siblings or neighborhood peers, and it really might give them the opportunity to act in the expert role.”

We’d love to hear about your own experiences with video games and mental health. Fill our our Public Insight Network survey, drop us a line @MarketplaceTech or comment below.

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