When my son was around four years old he was seeing an occupational therapist and one of his problems was manipulating anything with his fingers. It was difficult for him to hold a pencil, button his shirt, zip up his pants, etc. The occupational therapist recommended buying a v-smile educational video game system for small children. She said manipulating the buttons on the video game controller would help him train his fingers as well as sharpen his hand eye coordination. When we bought the v-smile my son loved it right away. At the time he didn’t care about winning but would laugh hysterically to himself while he played not realizing he was doing therapy.
Around the time he entered kindergarten he was sent a Nintendo Gamecube for his birthday. Again he loved it right away but it was too advanced for him. He would sit there playing the same game over and over until he finally mastered it. Learning all the buttons he needed to push at the right times until he could beat anyone that played with him. He fell in love with all of the Nintendo characters and wants any games featuring Mario and his gang.
Since he is a child with special needs, socialization has always been a problem for him. During the first few months of kindergarten he spent every recess and lunch hiding under the play equipment watching the other children play. We started inviting children from his class over for play dates and we noticed something amazing. When they started playing video games together all of the social barriers in my sons head went away. He was interacting with the other children and the majority of the time he was beating them. The other children were amazed at how good he was and my son’s self esteem rose. Back at school he finally pulled himself out from under the play equipment and started playing himself. It was more of parallel play with the children he had become comfortable with but it was a start.
Video games also became a way for me to bond with my son. This was an activity he enjoyed and playing with him and trying to complete a game together is always fulfilling. He has now progressed to the Nintendo Wii and is just as good on those games as he was on the Gamecube. Our latest game that we conquered together was Mario Galaxy 2. He actually did most of the hard parts on his own. Soon he might not need my help at all.
He is now 9 years old and has a small group of friends that sleep over often. In a one on one setting with a child he feels comfortable with he has learned to socialize. He started learning how to socialize with video games but now it also includes swimming, wrestling and other activities. I couldn’t have been prouder at dinner last week when I watched him beat his friend in Tic Tac Toe four games in a row. A few months ago he slept over at a friend’s house for the first time and he has his second sleepover this weekend. He still has trouble in groups and usually ends up watching instead of playing but I think one day he will get there.
I know many parents don’t like video games but they have opened up a world of possibilities for my son. Do you have different thoughts or opinions on letting your special needs child play video games, I want to know. Please provide your comments below in the comments section.