Friday, November 21, 2014

Popular Games, Executive Functioning and LearningWorks for Kids

This week was The Assistive Technology Conference of New England, held in Warwick, RI. I was lucky enough to be able to attend. Not only were there a bunch of assistive technology vendors but about 20 presentations on various topics. The three I attended were very informational, but the third really kept me engaged and ready to utilize a new website.
"Minecraft and Angry Birds: Building Executive Functions for Children with ADHD and Autism" was presented by Randy Kulman, Ph.D. and James Daley, the president and vice president of LearningWorks for Kids. Kulman and Daley's company has completed research about popular video games and apps and their effects on executive functioning. From this research, they have created a database for parents, educators and therapist of games and apps and how they can be used to address executive functioning.

LearningWorks for Kids believes there is a healthy play diet, consisting of: social play, active play, creative play, free play and lastly, digital play. Just like a healthy balanced food diet, children need to engage in all types of play to develop appropriate skills. Each type of play is important, but parents need to model a balanced play diet for their children.

This presentation focused specifically on Angry Birds and Minecraft, and how they can help children with Autism Specturm Disorders (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and their specific executive functioning issues. For example, Angry Birds can help an individual that has difficulties with flexibility and planning. A user needs to be able to adjust their play depending on the birds (type and quantity), the materials and buildings protecting the birds. They must plan their moves, analyze angles and deploy the bird's special powers at the correct time. In addition, the user must employ flexibility, as each level is different.

LearningWorks for Kid's website (here), provides an analysis of over a thousand popular games that can be played on the computer or on a device, including informational sections called "Thinking Skills Used", "Age Recommendation", "How it Helps", "Play Together" and "Make it Work". "Play Together" gives ideas to adults on how to play these games WITH the child to increase social interaction on games that may be single player. In addition, "Make it Work"gives ideas on how to talk to the child about the game and what skills are being addressed with each game. LearningWorks for Kids wants the children to think about what is hard for them and how the games are working on those skills (metacognition).

LearningWorks for Kids requires subscription, which is free, and can be adapted to your child's needs. Additional profiles can be created for various children and students, each suggesting games and apps to address their specific issues.

Randy and James were very excited to share the information on their company and website. They are constantly updating their database and have tried to make sure everything is very user friendly and understood by their audience. I am excited to try out some of their suggestions with the students I see!


Shelly loves feeling inspired after continuing education courses!

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