Video Games and the Developmentally Disabled

Recently fellow blogger and homeschool mom Amy tweeted some interesting news: a new study suggests that kids with Down syndrome can benefit from playing the Wii even more than from occupational therapy.

Now this is just one study. Also, our son Josh has been fortunate that he hasn’t needed occupational therapy. But our experience with the Wii has been that Josh is not only very good at playing video games on the Wii and enjoys it tremendously, but that it’s been good for him in other ways, too. For instance, when he doesn’t understand written directions on the screen, he’ll write them down and show them to us so we can explain them. He sometimes keeps those directions and refers back to them. So he’s practicing his printing and reading skills.

Most importantly, the Wii levels the playing field between Josh and his siblings, and between him and other teens. He may not be able to keep up with them when playing basketball or baseball, but they’re all amazed at how often he beats them at Wii games. It’s the one area where no one cuts him any slack and yet he can win. So it does wonders for his self esteem. That alone makes it a pretty valuable tool.

I know many homeschooling parents are opposed to having video game systems in the home. I was, too. In fact, we never allowed one in our home until my sister sent my kids a system when they were teens. They played it a lot for a time but none of them became addicted to it.

Josh, on the other hand, fell in love with it early on. But it’s turned out to be a great tool for him. I think homeschooling parents should consider allowing these systems as long as they keep control of them. (They may even find they like playing them; my husband plays against Josh for a little while most evenings, and while he does it for Josh, he sure looks like he’s having fun, too!)

8 thoughts on “Video Games and the Developmentally Disabled

  1. It is encouraging to see someone else say that Wii can be therapeutic. My child’s issues are different than yours, she is very ADHD. Playing Wii games does two things for her, it makes her focus everything going on in her brain in one place at the same time, and it allows her to use up some of her excess energy. Because of those two things, a short Wii break during the day helps collect her, and bring her back to a place where we can go back to school. Another thought on Wii being therapeutic, my mother was in the hospital recently, very ill, and as they started her rehab occupational/physical therapy had her doing Wii sports, because she could do a little exercise without having to stand or balance. As long as I retain ultimate control, Wii is very welcome at my house.
    Homeschooling 1 ADHD child for 4 years with Time4Learning!

  2. How interesting to hear what Wii is doing for your daughter and your mom, Linda. And I agree with you that retaining ultimate control is key. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. What a great post! My son, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, has used video games to help “calm” his mind for several years. It also gives him a great way to start a conversation with other youth, as it is an area where most children can be on a level field. Since talking to others is one of the things that he finds difficult to do, we have found that this “horrible thing” so despised by many is in fact, a great bond builder for our son.

  4. You and I are on the same page, Aileen, as the “level field” is so helpful when it comes to friends! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  5. We don’t have any developmental issues or such in our home, but we do have a Wii and a gamecube. My 5 yr old especially loves video games and would sit and play all day.. he is drawn to anything electronic… we allow it up to a point. Especially in this day and age, when he could grow up to be a gaming developer or computer genius!! He has beaten several games that are way above his age level, but are rated E with no violence. I especially love the wii, the games are easy to control, there are a ton of violence etc free games to choice from, and any one of my kids can play! Even my 22 month old joins in for baseball and basketball matches. I love that they aren’t sitting and zoned out, but that they have to get up and move. We had an xbox, but it required so little movement the kids would completely zone out on it. I find with the Wii, that is not a problem at all! :O)

  6. Katie, I agree and think that one of the main advantages of the Wii is that the players can be active. It’s also great for cold rainy days so that kids have a way of burning off some of their energy. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  7. I am a Leisure Arts Instructor for the developmentally disabled adults. I work in a Day Habilitation setting for people who came from the large institions to smaller group home settings. Most of my people are severely and profoundly impaired. Are there any computer programs I can use with them?

  8. I’m sure there must be, but I’m not familiar with the latest. Can a reader weigh in on this one? Thanks!

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