Games for students with Autism as an effective Methodology in Education for the development of Social Skills


A new and innovative way to improve the quality of teaching and increase student motivation is game-based learning (GBL). GBL borrows certain gaming principles and applies them to real-life settings to engage users (Trybus 2015), it is not just creating games for students to play, but designing learning activities that can gradually introduce new concepts, and guide learners towards an end goal. GBL provides an opportunity for teachers to incorporate active learning into their instruction, promote students’ interest and engagement, and provide immediate feedback on performance. A great amount of research suggests that GBL can increase student learning and social skills development, specifically to populations with social skills deficiencies such as children with autism (ASD) (Hsiao and Zhang, 2019).

Teaching social skills in school is considered as important as teaching academic skills, since having the ability to interact in an appropriate manner is not only important for the persons to be accepted in the school environment but, also as they progress through life. Research has shown that social skills deficits persist into adulthood, where they continue to negatively impact social and occupational functioning (Rao, Beidel, & Murray, 2008, p. 353). It is very important that social skills training begin as early in life as possible. According to Newschaffer and Curran (2003) “Interventions started early in life can curtail problematic behavior and foster communication and social skill growth” (p 394). Gresham (1982) adds to this notion and asserts that social skills may be conceptualized as part of a broader construct known as social competence (p. 130). With this proposal, we want to improve the professional skills of early years and primary school teachers in Denmark and in the partner countries and as a result improve the quality of life and inclusion of school children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), a disorder which over the past decades, has increased by 120% according to the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), affecting approximately 1 every 68 individuals. One of the characteristics of children with ASD, ADHD, learning disabilities and other neurodevelopmental disorders is social skills deficiency. Given the idiosyncratic difficulties in the social and emotional understanding of pupils with ASD, teachers may face considerable difficulties in managing their needs, thereby affecting the quality of the teachers’ relationship with these pupils (Emam and Farrell, 2009). Within this context, and considering how important learning social skills from an early age is, and the challenges teachers can face, we propose a project with target group general pre-school /primary school teachers that have in their mainstream classes children with ASD, with the following objectives: *To design, test and publish an innovative Educational Package on GBL for mainstream education teachers (primary school) *To design and create a variety of games- a VR game, and a booklet with a number of group classroom games that promote social skills development in children with autism but also in their neurotypical peers *To deliver a training course to train general primary teachers on GBL and how to use and create a variety of games to teach social skills to children with autism in the mainstream classroom