For children with Asperger’s disorder, the social world is fraught with unpredictability, hidden rules, and ambiguity. As educators, we work to clarify this complex world and give students tools they need for social competency. We teach them safe and reasonable problem-solving strategies to manage the intricacies of human social interactions.
Even so, an ever-evolving world of video-gaming plays a prominent and influential role in the lives of our students. Through social skill groups, creative writing entries, and candid conversations among peers, our students have described the sense of belonging that the video-gaming community brings them. The technology enables participants to talk with one another during the game, allowing our students to reach out to others as a means of social contact outside of school. However, must also navigate difficult verbal interactions and confusing messages—many from strangers—and they may be confused by the challenging messages and images they are exposed to though some video games, especially those rated “M” for mature.
The staff at Y.A.L.E. School’s Medford and Mansfield Township campuses understand this delicate and sometimes problematic part of our students’ lives. We help them make sound social and emotional decisions and aid them in interpreting what they are seeing and hearing in the video game world. We also work with families to make sure they are doing the same at home.
George B. Gordon, a staff member at Y.A.L.E.’s Mansfield campus, has carefully investigated and researched this issue. For our Back-to-School nights at the Mansfield and Medford campuses, Mr. Gordon compiled short clips illustrating some of the gratuitous violence and provocative nature of the popular games played by our students. He presented real samples of the accompanying aggressive, prejudicial, and profane conversations going on between video-gamers of all ages playing together. Parents were astounded by the complexity of controversial social messages and graphic images children wrestle with when playing such games, and discussed the challenges related to video gaming.
Video games and new technology—both an unavoidable part of 21st century culture—present a double-edged sword for students with Asperger’s disorder. On the one hand, they allow simultaneous conversations that can be positive and rewarding, but they also present a new kind of social life. The educators of Y.A.L.E. School’s Medford and Mansfield campuses are committed to working together with parents to help students remain safe and make informed choices about their social and leisure activities …including navigating the increasingly complex world of video games.