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Subject: Boardgames for Children with Autism / ADD / ADHD? rss

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Roland Thomas
United States
New York
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I noticed that my 5 year old son was playing Trouble (or attempting to) the other day at his daycare.

This got me thinking about boardgames, which I love, love, love as a personal hobby of mine (just wished I had more time these days to play).

I searched on Google for boardgames, especially designed for young children either with autism or ADD/ADHD, or traditional boardgames that could appeal to them. However, I wasn't really satisfied with what I read.

What we have bought recently (as suggested by a local message board for parents with special needs kids) is Connect Four, Sorry, Trouble and card games such as Spot It, Go Fish and Old Maid.

Now I am turning here to the BGG community to see if anyone can offer their personal perspectives and stories.

Thanks in advance,
Roland (who looks forward to the day that he can play chess, backgammon, bridge, poker and RPGs especially Dungeons and Dragons with his son)


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James Griffith
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My son is on the spectrum and quickly was drawn to almost everything I put in front of him, even at 5 years old (He's almost 11 now). At the age you're describing, the bigger problem is reading-intensive games. But that's for most kids I think.

So, my suggestion is trying to keep the cards down at first. Let them enjoy the games. I had alot of success with Gulo Gulo, Chicken Cha-Cha-Cha and Animal upon Animal at that age. In a few years, things like Qwirkle, Ticket to Ride, and Zooloretto will open up but they might be a bit much right now. Almost anything published by Haba is a good bet. More recently, I have seen Three Little Pigs have alot of success with that age bracket too.

I wouldn't worry too much about the Spectrum issues regarding which games to pursue. If anything, I've found that my son and his peers were probably better equipped to play those games than non-spectrum kids. I found some issues with reading card text as they got older but few 5 years old are reading much of it.

I have little doubt for you on the chess, backgammon, bridge and poker. My 10 year old would clean you out in poker already (I think he card counts). The D&D is a long-way off for us I think though.
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Jeffrey Allers
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Flat Rock
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I have all the Zoch dexterity games (Bomboleo, Hamsterrolle, etc.) to add to Animal Upon Animal.

Coop games, especially those with a story, are great too. The story keeps them engaged and helps them with the impatience of waiting for their turn. We have Whowassit? and my boys also like playing it on an iPod Touch or iPad when we are travelling.

I also adapted other "adult" games to them when they were younger. They often wanted to bypass the yellow Haba children's games to play "daddy's games," so we played Ticket to Ride with open cards and tickets, and Carcassone without the farm rules and without playing cut-throat so that it was more of a cooperative puzzle.

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Vadim Golembo
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How about this one:
Nanofictionary

When I played it with my kids, we just made up stories.
We didn't even use the points system.
Lots of fun.
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Jill Reid
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Lincoln
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Check out:
Battle Sheep It's relatively fast and intuitive for an abstract. You may have to help a little at first, then he will take off! I have an older nephew I suspect is on the spectrum, and this is a game that we can play now, but I wish I had back then at age 5.
Hive Again, there will be a learning curve. But you could start with just the basic set and add others (Mosquito, Lady Bug, Pill Bug) later.

All of our nieces and nephews love:
The Little Orchard Your son may be on the edge of being too old for this one, though our kids continue to love it. There are more advanced versions of it that I haven't tried.
Viva Topo!
Chicken Cha Cha Cha
Duck, Duck, Bruce
Rory's Story Cubes There are a few sets out now, and all of the kids and adults enjoy the funny stories that come out. I love that you get a glimpse into the kids' thoughts and creativity. Some of the kids need me to tell stories with the dice first, and then they just enjoy re-creating the stories over and over. I always put the kids themselves into my stories, which makes them more engaged.

I'm not sure if any of this helps, but I would love to hear what you decide to try! Lots of my family members struggle with anxiety and other things, and we find that games are a great way to interact and focus. It does just take the "right" games with each person. Good luck on the search!
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Sithrak - The god who hates you unconditionally
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Could you be a little more specific? As someone who was diagnosed with rather severe ADHD as a child (way back when, before the medical community decided that every kid that's rude or just plain annoying must be suffering from ADHD) and I find it rather... adventurous to lump me into the same category as people who run away screaming if you look them in the eyes or to label me with that neat little "special" euphemism.
Having a hard time concentrating on boring crap isn't exactly the most debilitating condition in the world, unless you plan on doing boring crap for the rest of your life.

At any rate, if he's an autist I have no idea, if he just has ADD, the only real requirement is that it's interesting, what that means for him I can't tell you, but for me it generally involves intricacy, a bit of unpredictability and having to adapt to different situations, many moving parts, lots of conflict, pocket strategies and all the other good stuff that many think makes for an "unclean" or messy system. At the risk of bringing the wrath of the game snobs upon me, cool minis, nice pictures and at least a bit of background story to provide context for my heroic and/or villanous struggle can't hurt either.
That means Ameritrash and Wargames, very rarely a Euro (if it's on the more complex end of the spectrum), and a loathing for most abstracts.
Again, though, I can't tell you what your kid might like.
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Darren Bezzant
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Hey Roland. As a parent of two special needs boys, I have an invested interest in this topic.

What I have found is that the game has be something they have to be interested in. My eldest used to play boardgames with me, but once he found the X-Box, I pretty much lost him to the world of electronic gaming. Which is fine, we really only have to make sure he doesn't over do it

My youngest on the other hand, really latched on to some of my games. I let him come in and pick out whatever he is interested in. If it is something that might be 'over his head', we will pull it out, play with the pieces and take it from there. sometimes it works great (Castle Panic, Riff Raff, Formula D), and other times it doesnt work so well (Catan, Blokus, Tsuro).

But for me, it is the time spent, not the game played. We have spent hours playing Connect 4, and The Game of Life, and although it is hard for me to stay invested in those games, I know he is having a great time, and it gives us a great venue to just talk.

All I can recommend is that be patient, be open, and follow their lead. It will be easier on both of you!
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Scott Saccenti
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Try this company: www.simplyfun.com

It is one of their specialties.

I found them when looking for Pelican Cove, the U.S. company that got distribution rights for Uluru.

Pricey! But maybe some things you are looking for.
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Gary Tanner
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Also, http://toysforthought.com/ has a section of games for children with special needs, I've only looked at a few, but they did seem impressive for children with autism/aspergers.
 
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Rachel V
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We used Cranium Cariboo quite a bit when my daughter was young (4 or 5) and she had some speech delays that we needed to work on. I know that some bloggers recommended it for children on the spectrum. The game is intuitive, easily modifiable (by creating custom cards) and my daughter and her friends seemed to enjoy it quite a bit.

Unfortunately, it seems to be out of print, but there are a few on ebay.
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Roland Thomas
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Hi James,

Thanks for the suggestions. I'm definitely looking at Animal on Animal. And I agree that almost anything made by HABA is first class. We've got a few toys around here from his pre-school days.

Roland
 
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Roland Thomas
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Hi Jeffrey,

Thanks for the suggestions. I like the idea of coop games very much. In fact, I just ordered Race to the Treasure from Peacable Kingdom (http://www.peaceablekingdom.com).

Regards,
Roland
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Roland Thomas
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Hi Jill,

Thanks for your suggestions. The thing is, he is definitely full of great stories if and when he wants to talk about them. Our first goal (as parents) would be to get him to stay on task when telling a story without wandering off (physically or mentally) onto something else.

I'll post here re: our progress (or maybe I'll do it over Twitter or Tumblr if I ever get around to setting on those things up).

Regards,
Roland
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Roland Thomas
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Hi Sithrak,

Thanks for the feedback. He was diagnosed at age 2-1/2 with PDD-NOS ("Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified") which basically means he has some of the attributes of autism but not all the typical traits.

Specifically, he has issues with eye contact, usually does not answer to his own name, and does not really socialize with children his own age.

Also, although he has not been officially evaluated for this, we suspect he has ADD. He has issues managing his anger; is easily distracted; and does not respect other people's personal space.

I can't remember if I mentioned this before, but he is five (to be six in October). So maybe (now that I am thinking about it), what would be most effective are games that can address the potential ADD. Hmm, games that award for sharing, staying on task and cooperation over competition (which I can see he would not understand or care about).

I now have a lot more to think about!

EDIT on 8/18/14: Also want to add that another of his autistic symptoms is an absolute obsession with NYC trains and buses. He would endlessly watch, talk and draw them if we didn't direct him away from that to other activities. So this is yet another reason to engage him in game play that can foster social interaction and decision making.

Regards,
Roland


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Roland Thomas
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Hi Darren,

I agree -- if I can get his interest, then he's hooked. We actually played Trouble earlier this afternoon and he loved it, until he lost interest and got up and wandered off.

We also played Toss Across (what I called Tic-Tac-Throw when I was a kid) which you would think would be a fun, interactive game to play but he had no interest at all. At least today. I'm patient and persistent.

I really appreciate the sentiment that it is the time spent not the game played. I speak from personal experience that our bond is very strong from all the things we have done together (we went camping in upstate New York last month and oh boy did he ever love, love, love it).

Thanks again.

Regards,
Roland
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Carol Carpenter
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Hi, my son was diagnosed with autism at age 3. He is now a highly social, creative, and (mostly) well-behaved kid. I credit a regular ABA program for his improvements. Many ABA therapy centers have a game shelf with games that encourage exactly the kind of short-term reward traits you are describing.

I highly recommend if you haven't already getting him in either an ABA program where he is one-on-one with a therapist or a social skills class run by an ABA center (plenty of game playing in those classes too). Floortime is also a great approach. Best of luck!!
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Roland Thomas
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Hi Carol,

Very good suggestion, thanks. I never thought about the games that are practiced in ABA therapy.

[FYI, our son did have ABA therapy for a couple years but his therapist (who was absolutely wonderful) moved back to her hometown last year.

He currently isn't doing ABA now because it's expensive, but here in NY State a law was recently passed requiring insurers to approve ABA therapy, so we're going to look into it again. Will also look at Floortime and Son-Rise.

Also, have you ever heard of this site: https://www.skillsforautism.com

They offer tutorials and training to parents to learn ABA skills for their children.]

Regards,
Roland
 
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Michael Hyland

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Autism has such a range so it would be very dependent on the child. Cards with pictures of things they like might be appealing. A deck of pokemon cards could be appealing. I'm wondering if tile laying in patterns might be appealing for some too. We had a child with autism at our school who would line up every book bag on the playground. We are taking like 50+ bags. He would arrange them all in a row and leave a space for any missing bags. All 50 (if present) were always put in the same correct order every day. By correct order I mean by whatever method he initially used to get the first layout, but it was the same layout every day with spaces left for the absent students.

I can see why connect four, sorry, trouble, spot it and old maid would be very appealing and very appropriate. You press that button on trouble which has some visual stimulation, then you move your piece. Yes sounds simple and boring but to a child with Autism, following a set of procedures is a major accomplishment. The set collecting in go fish would be excellent too. Maybe there are other simple set collecting games out there. Spot it again is looking for visual cues and working on basic communication. Connect 4 is about searching and building 4 in a row another simple pattern search or build. It's a great choice really.

Kids on the higher functioning end tend to be statistical notebooks and encyclopedias. Something in which lots of characters with statistical powers might appeal to a boy who has a high functioning form of autism. I know of a boy who could read at a college level in elementary school. I'm not saying he understood it, but would be able to correctly read the wwords. He would be able to correctly read a medical journal for example (but would not comprehend it). He also had theories or explanations for everything. Not generally correct, but always based on the vast knowledge and photographic memory he had for bits of information. I bet if I had played Fauna with him he would have remembered the statistics on most of the cards. I regret not trying that because I bet he would have been good at the game because of his vast knowledge of animal facts and stats. (problem is there are some card errors in that game from what I understand)

For ADHD the key is active engagement. You have to pick a game on a topic they are interested in or like. I could see boys playing the Legendary game if they were into superheroes. Some kids with ADHD need to move around a lot especially if the activity isn't 100 percent engaging for them. I've seen them sit still and play a video game because they were engrossed, but then not be able to sit for 2 mins on something else that didn't engage them. Allowing them a game opportunity that has some movement often helps if they are not 100 percent engrossed by the game. Cross Boule might be a cool active indoor game they could play. Games with a lot of wait time between turn I could see being problems (unless the game really interested them greatly). A little competition sometimes helps too. I'm thinking Mad City? Haven't played that game though but it is real time and kind of frantic. I'll also add that coops in which you can help other players in your off turn and such might be nice too. Forbidden Island might work well because of the planning and interaction between turns. Yes you have to watch out for the Alpha dominating problem possibly but with some supervision that wouldn't be an issue.
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MJ Ginger
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Does he just like NYC trains and buses, or trains and buses in general? If it's the latter, it might be a good fit to engage him in a game about buses and/or trains. He likes the buses and trains, but also gets the interaction/conversation of doing the game. You can modify some of the rules to Ticket to Ride, for example, to make it accessible for a 5 year old (for example, ignore tickets and just have everyone claim routes). My kids also like to build with the Rivers, Roads, and Rails tiles (though I can't bring myself to play the actual game with them after reading a few reviews of the game.) I'm sure there are plenty others that fit into this category, as well.
 
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may-prigent Ffran
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How does your son react to going into a shop ? If it isn't too much to ask of him, perhaps,you could take him on a special visit to a gaming shop, where he could choose a game for himself. My experience of wonderful kids on the autism spectrum or ADHD is that their likes and dislikes or often unexpected.

If close contact in a gaming shop is too difficult, or if it's too far away, perhaps you could make up a short list on the internet that he could browse. It could be a fun way to develop his decision making, if hat can be difficult for him...

My seven year old is dyspraxic, so you would think that Carcassonne wouldn't be the game for him, yet he loves it ! We have spent hours playing games with him, it breaks my heart to see him struggling to keep cards in his hand and not show them to other players, but the pleasure of playing is more important to him than is difficulties.

I personally find that playing games really takes the pressure off, and we finish a reading session with a game of his choice .

Good luck with your purchases !
 
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(silent) Bob Munroe
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I have a 7 year old with high functioning autism. We have some specialised board games that focus on developing social skills but he actually finds them quite boring - not because he can't answer the questions but because there's not a lot of substance to the play mechanics. There's such a huge variation in games that it'll really depend on your individual child & their specific interests, etc.

We are a big boardgame-playing family. At the moment, our son enjoys Robo Rally (although does need some help as he's only 7!), Flash Point (we play with the Family rules), Duck Duck Go, Cluedo Jnr, & SMART. He wants to try Takenoko (mainly because of the pieces but it might be a tad too difficult right now) & he's trying to play FLUXX on his own at the moment (but needs some help - he's played it on the iPad). He *adores* some of the more retro games we own, like Lost Valley of the Dinosaurs - often you can find some pretty awesome old kid's games in op shops or online that work really well (I always wonder why they don't make good boardgames like they used to). We opened up Survive: Escape from Atlantis today & feel he would probably enjoy it. He will sometimes play with some of the puzzle games we have around the place but they don't grab his attention for long. I have also backed a few games on Kickstarter that I think he'd enjoy (with themes like computer programming, science & maths). Having said all that, we do find co-op games (like Flash Point) do tend to work better than competitive games...like a lot of kids on the spectrum, our son sometimes has difficulty dealing with not winning or players not being nice to each other (has improved since he did his social skills therapy, though).

We don't really choose games with his autism in mind...we simply cater for his high IQ & allow him to join in family games when & if he's interested & able to play (& if he can't quite do it on his own, he plays with one of us). So age & ability are more the limiting factors. If we had a family game that included one of his obsessions, we'd probably also include that...but given he's currently obsessed with Minecraft, it's not happening right now. Having said that, he had a thing for lego for a while...so we got him one of the lego boardgames, which he really enjoyed.

Good luck & hope you have some awesome gaming time with your family!
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Roland Thomas
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Hi Michael,

My apologies for posting 3 weeks after your reply. Been a pretty busy time for me personally as well as the rest of the family.

To give a sort-of-update, we've played Trouble, Connect Four, Old Maid, Go Fish a few times and while it seems to keep his interest for a few minutes, it quickly wears off. Go Fish was actually cool for a bit as it features in one of his favorite books ("Rabbit and Robot Have a Sleepover") but he doesn't quite grasp the concepts. Aside from giggling and yelling "give me all your tens" and "give me all your fives". ;-)

(Ah, my little angel bear, what are we going to do with you.)

Roland


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Roland Thomas
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Hi MJ,

This is a fantastic idea. I'll try modifying Ticket to Ride. Yes, he loves MTA trains and busses. Oh, man, does he ever. He constantly draws them on his easel and endlessly watches videos on Youtube. He also has most of the Munipals MTA wooden trains and busses (we happen to live in Brooklyn near the MTA Transit Museum, one of his favorite places on Earth).

Regards,
Roland
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Roland Thomas
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Hi May,

Thanks for the advice. I would say his favorite game shop is Legoland (either the one in Rockefeller Center or the other up in Westchester -- in fact, we drove up to the Westchester one a few months ago for a birthday party and he just lost his sh-t, he was in such heaven).

I think we'll go back to Target and let him browse the choices there some more and offer up what he would like to play with.

(There used to be a wonderful store called The Game Show in Greenwich Village here in NYC about 10 years ago. I miss those kinds of stores where you could go in and talk to some really knowledgeable people who clearly loved their passions.)

Rgds,
Roland
 
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Peter Olotka
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Two days ago I was chatting with one of our Cosmic Encounter players, Walt, Ohara who runs a gaming camp. I'd like to share that dialogue.

Walt Ohara: Right now, I'm working at the Night Vision Lab at Fort Belvoir, doing the dad thing, etc. etc.

about an hour ago
pgocosmic: Does the Dad thing teach Cosmic to the Kid(s) thing?


Oh HECK yes. I run a gaming camp for kids every August and we play Cosmic every day


You will appreciate this:


I had a kid who is autistic, or borderline and he was FASCINATED by Cosmic Encounter. he immediately grasped the Nomic elements of the design.

so while I was running the main events and such he was off in a corner, reading every single card of my main set and all the expansions.


THE NEXT DAY, he showed up with a spiral bound notebook.

pgocosmic: That is awesome...you need to read David Brins novel Existence


on each page of the book was a picture of a card from CE hand drawn, by this kid from his memory.I was awestruck and the mom stopped me on the last day.. simply babbling about how much he loved the camp and especially "the game about the aliens"


So I gave her all the info she needed to get him a basic set


She was tearful, as it takes a lot to get through to this kid and she hadn't seen him so engaged and happy in a long time.

pgocosmic: I need to save this chat its special


Feel free!


I run it every August, St. Stephens and St. Agnes School, Alexandria VA


It's a one of a kind camp.


If you search on my blog for "Camp" you'll find out a lot more.. and multiple CE references! http://misternizz.wordpress.com/?s=Camp

pgocosmic: We will talk more about this


sure, why not?

pgocosmic: Thanks for the story


np! I thought you'd enjoy it.

pgocosmic: In Existence (2012) Brin has characters with autism as an evolved race who function is ways that other humans are just learning to understand.

pgocosmic: What is a good way to recommend CE for these kids?


Well, CE has a structure, right? But lots of color and variability which is very fascinating


I think it was the cards themselves that really caught the attention of the kid at camp


He played, but he was fascinated by reading the text and looking at the picture and contemplating how card A matches against card B.


I second Brin's comments on Autism. For some reason I get a lot of them (proportionately) at the camp and they make EXCELLENT game players.
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