How Kinect Can Benefit Autistic Kids

How Kinect Can Benefit Autistic Kids

When Microsoft conceived and developed hands-free motion control system Kinect, it intended to make gaming as hassle-free as possible. But maybe even the company’s best engineers couldn’t foresee just how intuitive Kinect would prove itself to be. John Yan, a writer for GamingNexus, recently reported that his autistic son, Kyle, manipulated menus and games in Kinect with little instruction. Kyle is on the higher end of the autism spectrum, meaning he can communicate well with his parents, but Yan says that the four-year-old is often stymied by console controllers, and therefore prefers to watch his father game versus playing games himself.

Video games aren’t always an ideal pastime for individuals who are physically- or- developmentally-challenged. Even the most basic accommodations that were nailed down by the movie industry years ago–such as dependable closed-captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing–are not a guarantee. And Kyle’s story is a reminder that not everybody can manage a controller. Maybe Microsoft will take this opportunity to work with support organizations and help bring hands-free gaming to groups that will directly benefit from it.

Children with autism, for instance, often feel comfortable with routine and repetition, which draws some of the afflicted to video games. Some work well with a mouse, keyboard, and controllers, while others, like Kyle, have trouble. Whatever the child’s proficiency, however, a system like Kinect is almost certain to yield more benefits. Obviously, it’s too early for any conclusive studies to tell us for sure, but Kyle’s story provides a glimpse into what might come: Autistic children who can immerse not only their minds, but their bodies into video games. Aside from obvious benefits to mental development and motor skills, Kinect is also ideal for multiplayer fun. An autistic child can play with siblings, parents, and other friends and family, thus providing opportunities to open up and communicate.

Everybody deserves the chance to experience the carefree fun of gaming, and Kinect goes one step further by offering the potential for people to improve their quality of life and the life of their loved ones.

About Nadia Oxford
Nadia is a freelance writer living in Toronto. She played her first game at four, decided games were awesome, and has maintained her position since. She writes for 1UP.com, Slide to Play, GamePro and other publications, and is About.com’s Guide to the Nintendo DS.

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