The creators of an online educational and therapeutic game series that benefits children with autism were honored with an award this week at the Premier’s Design Awards in Melbourne, Australia.
The online game series, called Whizkid Games, was designed by Swinburne University’s National eTherapy Centre.
One of the co-creators, David Austin, explained that his interest in designing these kinds of games arose from his personal experiences: his son is autistic.
Austin, both a psychologist and the co-director of the National eTherapy Centre, realized through treatments being provided to his son that not all of the usual therapy methods were as effective as they could be. Depending on where a child falls on the spectrum, Austin argues that techniques like verbal instruction won’t do the trick for a child with severe autism. Some children will be able to learn easier if a teaching method plays to their strengths.
He said: ‘‘These kids don’t talk, read or write, they’re not good at sitting patiently and listening to instruction, and they’re not motivated by the same things other kids are.”
Austin set out to create games that would be educational by engaging a child with autism to detect patterns through repetition. Austin and his team visited a local school and center for children with autism to find out what exactly they were struggling with.
The result is games like “Ron Gets Dressed” and “Eric Goes to the Airport.”
In creating the games, they had to completely re-work the palette that their used to. Most games include some sort of system where one gains points. The designers found that this doesn’t add to the experience for children with autism at all. They instead focused on including music or entertaining visuals that would be easier for a child with autism to connect with.
The National eTherapy Centre will continue doing research on the product and how it stimulates behavioral change in children with autism.