The last few posts have discussed implementing gaming within the context of set content in our curriculum. Today I want to highlight the use of gaming for students with special educational needs.

As the video shows, gaming can be used to help students on the autism spectrum  to identify facial expressions – an important facet of socialisation. In this context, gaming extends beyond traditional education by increasing life skills.

The Center of Autism Research (CAR) in America is undertaking a research program also based on increasing facial recognition skills via the game FACE STATION:

“computerised health games can motivate players to perform a wide range of activities that promote learning and skill development in ways that have the potential to exceed conventional teaching and training methods by tapping “reward” circuits in the brain.”

The Center of Autism Research (2011).

The results of this research will include brain imaging before and after gaming to measure the effect on the brain. Whilst there is still need for further research, Churchill discusses similar research on the effects of technology on the brain:

“individuals who used the internet showed twice as much activity in regions of the brain responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning compared with those who had limited exposure to the internet”

Churchill, (2011).

How can we apply these findings to education?

By continued scientific research, innovation and discussion.

Assistive Gaming is an online organisation that “make accessible games that were not made with accessibility in mind.” Indeed, its staff consists of editors who themselves use and create “assistive technology”:

“Of course, gaming’s possible, just about anything in life is possible. Sure, I’ll never walk, but I sure as Hell can rock at World of Warcraft.”

Harushimana (2008) found games greatly enhanced his students’ print and digital literacy skills as a part of an after-school literacy programme in an urban city high school. Gaming can be applied to a multitude of special programmes, including abused children.

Inclusive education demands individualised approaches to students with a variety of special needs, from physical to emotional, students at risk to students with literacy issues. Yet individual learning approaches can be costly and difficult to implement in a classroom environment. They require funding to cover materials, special education aides and training. Further feasibility studies focusing on the fiscal benefits of gaming within this context would be extremely useful towards future policy discussions.

Discussion being an imperative to ensure the resource of gaming for special needs is utilised properly in our classrooms.


Assistive Gaming, The Assistive Gaming Team,

The Center for Autism Research (2011), Computerized Gaming,

Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Harushimana, I.  (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High  School Males, Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008, ISSN: 1535-0975.

Terdiman, D. (2005). Second Life Teaches Lessons,