Dr. Roger Newman-Norlund had an idea. What if he took the power and appeal of video gaming and matched it to the needs of individuals with autism. Enter- “The Cooperation Station”. A suite of currently 6 different video games that Roger and his team created. The appeal of the traditional video game is still there. But with the Cooperation Station, the reinforcement and reward only can happen when you work together with another person. The games are all cooperative in nature to some degree. For instance, in one game, the players must work together to carry a beam through a maze puzzle to a defined area. In order to do this, players must communicate to some degree as they work together. Even better, their faces actually appear on their on-screen players for more personalization in the process.
Ultimately, the games both assess social skills and act as an intervention to improve social skills and interactions of individuals with autism.
Our students have been playing the games for nearly 2 months now and find them enjoyable and are interacting more than they would have before. It is great to see students actually communicating with each other to solve a purposeful challenge when in the past they may have never spoken to each other at all. It was also fun watching the students that call themselves “gamers” really have to stop and change how they approached the games because now they must rely on another person rather then just themselves.
Newman-Norlund mentions that the essence of teamwork is working together to achieve a common goal. In the process, motor skills, language, cognition, synchronization, and much more are developed. The entire process is incredibly complex. Developing these skills in individuals with autism is so very important. Using video games as a means to do this is both innovative and fun. Roger and his team remain at the cutting edge and I look forward to the next steps of this process.
Dr. Roger Newman-Norlund is the Director of the USC Brain Stimulation Laboratory. He will be doing a Keynote on this topic at the NYS Association for Computers and Technologies in Education upcoming Special Education Summit at Wildwood Programs on May 16, 2015. The keynote is entitled: “At the Crossroads of Technology and Special Education: A Role for Serious Games in Serious Autism Interventions”.
Mark Giufre (deTechtive1) 2013