From when Liam was 3-years-old, playing games was a part of his therapy.
Through playing games he learned turn taking, which then helped model for him how to take turns in regular conversations.
He learned to take an interest in others by asking what game they wanted to play and then being guided through the process of asking small questions of them while playing.
He learned to not want to always win and actually say, “Good game,” afterwards, whether he won or lost.
If all else failed in “making a friend,” playing a game was a common activity he and a peer could participate in. As Liam’s ability to play games grew, he became someone that others wanted to play with – for good healthy competition.
Games also gave Liam a way to create. The picture above is an example of two expansion levels Liam created for Monopoly. He used places he was familiar with from trips or activities that were special to him to create new properties.
Not all of the games Liam made, at first, were easy to understand. We had to share with him that he wasn’t explaining enough of what was in his head, to help us know how to play the game.
This was essential feedback to provide him. It helped to develop his “theory of mind” – one’s ability to take someone else’s point of view. Theory of Mind is often a difficult skill for individuals with ASD. They can be “mind blind” – not being able to estimate or accurately predict what others are thinking.
We and his peers offered him feedback about what they understood and didn’t understand about a game he had created. He started to learn how to “anticipate” where someone would have difficulty with his “rules.”
We will find out if he was successful in his latest game tomorrow. He created a video game with two peers for Technology Student Association (TSA) competition. Working with two peers and creating a successfully judged video game would show that all those years ago, starting him playing games to related to and connect with peers was a great idea.