Pokémon Go used in classrooms to help autistic children

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A teacher in Australia has developed a way to use augmented reality game Pokémon Go to engage his autistic students and develop their social skills.

Instead of banning this addictive game from his school, Craig Smith, deputy principal at the Aspect Hunter School for Children with Autism in Newcastle, New South Wales, actively encourages his pupils to play it.

Mr Smith, who is also an academic specialising in Autism research, found that allowing his students to use the game improved their social skills, encouraging them to play outside and to engage with other children.

Speaking to The Independent, he said: ‘For many of the children I teach, it’s hard to engage in social activities—even going down to the shops can be socially overwhelming. But what we’re seeing with the Pokémon craze is the same students are making conversation and engaging in social activities through the game.’

First made popular in the 1990s as a video game, the new Pokémon app allows players to see and ‘catch’ Pokémon characters in the real world using their phone screens. The game has taken the world by storm, hitting the headlines for its addictive nature and the lengths to which fans are willing to go to capture rare Pokémon.

Rather than fear the app as a distraction though, Mr Smith says teachers must embrace what children are interested in and find a way to turn the game into a teaching tool.

Children with autism can be especially reactive to visual stimuli in apps and computer games, he explains, which can, in turn, increase engagement in learning and help them develop their social skills.

Image: Eduardo Woo

Creative Teaching & Learning
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