Can video games help autistic children improve their social skills?

It’s still hard to believe that we now live in a world where playing video games is a viable career, and where video games themselves are being used for both educational and medical purposes. There are numerous examples of this, but one of the more recent ones comes from the University of Western Australia, where a researcher by the name of Gail Alvares is working on a video game project that’s aimed at helping children with autism learn vital social skills. Digital media really has changed everything, hasn’t it?

Searching for a way to help children with autism, researcher Gail Alvares came up with a fairly simple equation. “We like games, we know that kids like games, so why don’t we develop something that could become an additional part of therapy,” she told Mashable Australia. As part of her work at the University of Western Australia and the Telethons Kids Institute, a medical research organisation based in Perth, Alvares is working on a video game project aimed at teaching kids with autism vital social skills. The game, currently dubbed Frankie and Friends, is intended to help such children begin to process social information — an idea Alvares described in an article for ABC News. “One of the difficulties that some children with autism may experience is paying attention to social information with people,” she explained. “They may not make eye contact with people or they might pay more attention to objects than people or faces.” If parents, teachers or therapists had learning tools that could start to shift that attention, to help children with autism prioritise people and particularly their faces in social interactions, it could have a significant impact.

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