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Using Minecraft to help children with autism develop social skills

A version of the wildly-popular Minecraft video game designed specifically to be played by kids with autism is helping protect these children against online bullying and aiding them to build social skills.

Autcraft is a Minecraft server which is only for use by children with autism and their families.

The site was created by Stuart Duncan – who has autism and is the father of a child with autism – to create a friendlier, more inclusive environment for kids with the condition to play Minecraft. As such, users must apply for permission to access the server and then wait up to two weeks for their submission to be assessed.

The video game sees players able to build 3D structures with textured cubes, as well as gather resources while exploring the game’s enormous environment.

On the Autcraft website, Duncan explains that the server is controlled by adults – typically parents of the gamers – and users can ascend to the status of “helpers” or “jrhelpers” by displaying consistently responsible and positive behaviour while playing.

In order to foster a friendly experience for the gamers, there is zero tolerance for bullying and swearing, or of killing or stealing from other players.

“All kills, blocks placed, blocks broken, items dropped, picked up and more are tracked so that we can see exactly what happens anywhere,” the website states.

Autcraft has been gaining widespread positive publicity, with England’s National Autistic Society saying recently that it believes Minecraft can aid kids with this condition.

Testimonials posted by parents of Autcraft users on its website refers to the bullying that their children often used to experience while playing Minecraft on unrestricted online servers.

One of the common affects of autism is that those with the condition often experience difficulty developing social skills. The testimonials repeatedly referred to the ways in which their children had become more “open” and sociable since joining Autcraft.

One testimonial from a mother with two autistic boys aged ten and seven, described how the game had brought her children closer together.

“Over the first few weeks of playing Autcraft, I began to see a dramatic improvement in their ability to get along with each other, and now, several months later, they are best friends!” wrote the mother.

Video games have been blamed over and again for causing problems among children, so it’s refreshing and inspiring to see Minecraft being recognised for having a positive impact.

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