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!)