Using computers and networks to help build social skills

Zeke is an avid fan of computer and video games. Unlike the stereotypical kid and teenager, though, he has always preferred what you might call “educational” games. Reading, math, etc. The best of these, from this parent’s point of view, were the ones that also modeled good social interaction between characters. (The Sesame Street games were good, but I’m partial to the Reader Rabbit and Math Rabbit series. A more modern example is Animal Crossing on the Nintendo Game Cube.)

It would not be an understatement to say that Zeke learned a lot of what he knows about social interaction from these games. (His brother learned how to read watching Zeke play the games and trying to keep up.) He hasn’t really used the internet much, but as he gets older I think he will.

And what a great tool for helping socially uncomfortable people (like autistic/Asperger’s kids) the internet can be. Check out this little bit from a story on USATODAY.com :

Second Life serves just such a self-esteem boosting function for a group of residents with Asperger’s, a high-functioning form of autism that impairs social interaction.

A year ago, John Lester, director of information technology at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital, spent $1,000 to buy a private 16-acre island in Second Life that he dubbed Brigadoon.

As creator of the support site braintalk.org, Lester had seen the benefits of having patients interact via e-mail. The more realistic setting of Brigadoon has produced even greater breakthroughs.

‘I see them making strong social connections that I’d never seen before,’ Lester says. ‘When they’re ready, I’ve asked them to try and leave the island and visit the rest of Second Life.’

For more on Second Life, check out the official site at http://www.secondlife.com.

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