Mining for Social Skills: Minecraft in Home and Therapy for Neurodiverse Youth

Zolyomi, Annuska
Schmalz, Marc
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The Minecraft game platform has widespread popularity among children, including neurodiverse children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and Attention-Deficit Disorder. A critical area of therapeutic focus for neurodiverse children is social learning to enhance their social connections. We conducted exploratory research to better understand the role of Minecraft in the lives of neurodiverse youth, from the perceptive of parents and clinics servicing this population. Via interviews and a focus group, we inquired into the perceptions and goals of clinics that have incorporated Minecraft into their services and parents of participating youth. Our findings are rich descriptions of the current social lives and gaming practices of neurodiverse children. Although parents and clinicians observe positive social interactions through Minecraft, parents grapple with their goals of supporting their children’s social lives and their reservations regarding online gaming communities. Parents and therapists desire more connections between virtual and face-to-face social relationships. Our findings point to the opportunity for clinicians, parents, and technology designers to facilitate social learning in online environments such as Minecraft due to its affordances to facilitate cooperation, modeling, joint attention, and performance in a safe, compelling environment.
Autism, Minecraft, Neurodiversity, Online Games, Social Learning Theory
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