Minecraft group helping children on autism spectrum build social skills

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Many people have been less social lately, spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. It can feel isolating, but with creativity there are ways to stay connected.

Autism Services of Saskatoon has created a Minecraft group to help children on the autism spectrum improve social skills. The program was originally created by Australian psychologist Raelene Dundon.

Autism Services of Saskatoon consultant Jessica Morrison worked with Dundon to adjust the program to be done virtually.

“I’m not just having it as a Minecraft group, we’re also doing it through Zoom. I have a curriculum that we follow — we talk about it before we go into the Minecraft world and the world is where we practice the skills,” Morrison explained.

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Eleven-year-old Sarah Klysko is part of the new group. She is creative and has played Minecraft well before joining.

“She is like a plethora of knowledge. If you want anything, to know anything about Minecraft you’re not aware of, Sarah will give you the how-to guide,” Gwen Glysko said about her daughter.

Children with autism can often struggle with social skills. It has been even more challenging during the pandemic not being able to see friends in person. Morrison said staying connected online has helped children like Sarah.

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“They can’t just be quiet and build. They have to work together so that teamwork building skills happen, communication happens, being creative and listening to others happens,” Morrison said.

So far, there has been a positive response from group participants.

“It’s pretty fun and I get to know them better than just talking to them normally,” Sarah said about the weekly sessions.

Read more: Coronavirus: Families of children with autism left scrambling before school starts

Morrison adds it isn’t just people on the spectrum who benefit from learning about teamwork and compromise.

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“It’s not just because they’re on the spectrum. Every kid and every adult should learn how to be a good friend, how to listen, how to have that back and forth conversation,” Morrison said.

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