Thursday, September 9, 2010

Social gaming builds social skills

As an avid gamer with a vast personal library, I know the benefits of playing games with friends. Social games help to build social interaction skills in our kids. As you can probably tell, that could be very helpful for our kids on the autism spectrum.

Autism carries a delay in development of social skills that can become permanent impairments if not supported early. Some impairments will always be there, but many can be learned around with practice in social skills. One fun way to practice? You guessed it, social games.

Card games, board games, any that cause you to be face to face, interacting with another human being have great social value. They require interaction to play and stimulate conversation. There is a wide variety of great games out there for all ages. Varieties allow you to find game types that work best for your child. Educational games can be pointed out or suggested by your child's teacher or counselor if you need input.

I'm going to suggest one in particular that my son and I collect together. It gives us great Father/son time as we compare pieces that we collect and build teams and armies to pit against each other in competition. The game is called Heroclix. It's a tabletop game played on a map with small figurines of comic book characters. Surely you've heard of Superman, Batman, Spiderman, and the X-men? At least from the movies, no doubt. Figures come in booster packs with five randomly assorted pieces in each. It's always a surprise what you will get and rare figures have value. A booster pack isn't cheap though at around 11 dollars each. The benefits of this game other than a fun time? Sportsmanship, map reading skills, math, and strategy all go hand in hand with the social skills and communication skills that you use in play. Playing Heroclix in 2nd grade really boosted my son's math skills. Now he plays mock battles between good guys and bad guys on his own, rolling dice and adding numbers, comparing numbers, etc. No scratch paper. It's all mental math at two digit numbers that I've never seen go higher than 26 in standard play. You can buy Heroclix online or at local hobby and game stores. Many comic book shops carry it too.

Other great games include Ticket to Ride (building railways in the historic 1800s), Apples to Apples (word game), and there's always the classics like Scrabble, Boggle, Sorry, and Yahtzee. Sorry is a great game for teaching good sportsmanship. You have to learn to accept that the game sends you back to start a lot. How to accept losing and winning gracefully with good manners; all great social skills and important for growing up.

Involve your child in social games. Start a game night or gaming club with school friends or family (or both!). Definitely check out Heroclix (yeah I'm biased). I think there should be more Heroclix players, what can I say?

(Photo is of a custom figure I made combining Superman with the Silver Surfer- not available in booster packs)


Mark W said...

Totally awesome post! I have my 3 year old helping me play Heroclix right now. I basically have him count stuff out and roll dice. He loves it!

Thewildeman2 said...

Thank you. My son really loves it too. He gets his pieces as rewards for good days at school. Works nicely most of the time.

Matt said...

I am a board game nut and I volunteer at an Aspie kids' game night. I highly recommend the game Quelf - I brought it in last night and kids and adults alike loved it. Much laughing, creativity, and spontaneity. Pushes me out of my comfort zone socially (sing Rawhide? compliment another player in a robot voice?). Yet, hard to resist the fun!