Good Practice: Serious Games for developing communication and social skills in individuals with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Intellectual Disability

Serious Games: Developing communication and social skills

Target Group Individuals with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and/or Intellectual Disability
Ages 12 – 35
How it meets needs Theotokos Serious Games are an interdisciplinary educational tool, in the format of an online computer game. Its aim is to promote the development of communication and social skills in individuals with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Intellectual Disability (ID) and has been designed in order to provide not only a useful and common tool for all therapists, teachers and parents, but also an attractive, motivating and pleasant game for the students as well. The existing materials and tools for development of soft skills in individuals with ASD and ID were limited and didn’t meet the individuals’ needs or our teaching needs.
How it takes a systematic approach Game based learning according to recent studies offers an environment where knowledge can be obtained through interaction, constant feedback and competition in an entertaining way. The friendly virtual environment of the game, the absence of punishment in case of a wrong answer, and the various levels of difficulty depending on the user’s profile, offer a less stressful learning procedure for the students, in relation to face-to-face interaction, yet at the same time, it manages to keep the whole procedure challenging and engaging for the user until the end.
Based on the above, a working group was formed which consisted of our interdisciplinary team, game designers and developers in order to design and produce the game. The steps included testing of the working prototype, feedback from the students and teachers, further improvements and final implementation. After the launch, there have been observations of the use of the game and the use of facilitation techniques. The manual of the game has been prepared and based on that, workshops have been held in order to train other professionals.
Stakeholder involvement Two levels of difficulty have been designed depending on the individual’s profile, taking into account the students’ feedback during the construction of the games. The students’ feedback was very valuable in order to make adjustments such as the graphic designs, audio-visual details and other technical issues. The contribution of therapists and teachers was also very significant both during the first stages of brainstorming and during the observation of the use as well.
Direct impact The games have been tested with the majority of the Foundation’s students (approx. 100 students) aged between 12 and 30. The following outcomes for the beneficiaries have been noted so far: an increase of interest for this educational tool, an increase in time of concentration, ability to connect the social circumstances described in the game with their own experiences and an increased initiative for discussion of similar situations in their everyday life. The educators find the games an easier way to talk about and teach social skills.
Strategic/wider impact An important observation has been made that has to do with the different approach and understanding of the game as well as its
educational goals when comparing the two groups, people with ASD in relation to people with ID. These observations are being especially commented on when training other professionals to use the games because they lend insight into the different ways these two groups process and learn these abstract skills.
Practicality The games are easily transferrable to other centres. The use of the games by other target groups which have difficulty with communication and social skills is most probably possible but this would have to be pilot tested for any adjustments that may be needed. The game has an open-code so translation into other languages is possible.
The access to the games is easy, since it is both an online game, and can be distributed in DVD-format as well. It is cost effective since it is can be used by many users, in distant areas and no further cost during the playing is needed. Furthermore, a handy manual is provided along with the game, in order to achieve the maximum benefit for the user, so as the teacher/therapist guides the user according to the educational targets set.
These games were structured on the theory of Social
Stories combined in a creative and innovative way with multiple-choice problem solving. They are focused on teaching the consequence of every choice at the communicative and social levels. Specifically, the player navigates a hero/character through a virtual city and confronts various problems in social circumstances, which he has to “solve”. The player has the chance to see the consequence directly for every choice that he makes, but the only way to move
forward towards the successful end of the game is through the selection of the right and socially acceptable choice. Moreover, processes in the games provide the learner with opportunities to assess situations, make decisions, learn from those judgments, and receive immediate feedback to correct an incorrect response or reinforce the correct one. There is evidence that shows the benefits of teaching the consequence.
Staff and Resources
Cosmos Business Systems AEBE/SA, CCS Digital Education
Arsenopoulos V., Korogiannaki A., Kotretsou C., Mpola A., Papadimitriou
A., Rapanakis I., Saridaki M.
June 2014 – February 2015
Co-financed by European (80%) and National funds (20%).
Contact /more information Name: Chrissi Kotretsou
Email address :