Thursday, 21 April 2011

Review: Secret Agent Society Computer Game

As I mentioned in my last post, I was sent a copy of the Secret Agent Society Computer game, which teaches emotions and social skills to children aged 8-12.

One of the clever features of the game is that it taps into the fact that a large percentage of autistic children are obsessed with visual mediums such as TV & computers.

One of the core deficits in autistic children is Theory of Mind, the ability to understand what others are feeling and that others may feel differently from us. It is sometimes called mindblindness.

The SAS game aims to teach these through different scenarios: facial expression recognition, voice tone and body language.

We've been playing it for about a month now and Lyla really enjoys it. The only caveat I have is that I think she has taken the game completely literally and thinks she really is in training to be a spy. Something I will have to address in due course!

The games also feature live missions, where you put your skills into practice in the real world- absolutely vital for really learning social skills.

For instance, Lyla has a mission to spy on people she sees out and about and try and work out what they are feeling. This comes with the instruction to the child not to stare as you may blow your cover as a spy, which very cleverly avoids the problem of your child getting into trouble for harrassing people.

I've bought Lyla a little spy notebook, which she fills in her missions and it provides a context for us to talk about social situations.

The only stumbling block that we came across was that Lyla found the facial recognition part of the game very difficult and she needed to pass that level to move on. The game guide recognises this and suggests you do the game with your child, to keep them on task (although obviously you shouldn't answer for them). I found that sitting beside her, giving constant encouragement helped a lot and she was absolutely thrilled when she finally passed the level after days of trying!

The SAS game is really well thought-out and fun for kids. You can find screenshots, video outakes and lots more on the SAS website.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

On Streetdance & Stress Levels in Combat Soldiers

A fellow autism mum recently drew my attention to some research which has shown that mothers of autistic children demonstrate similar stress levels to soldiers in combat.  I'm sure there won't be many mothers of autistic kids who will be surprised by this. But it did cause me to pause to consider how different my life is from the norm.

On a happy note, we are just discovering one of Lyla's hidden talents. She's become obsessed with streetdance and won a dance-off at school. Her talents were also spotted by a professional at a party- Go Lyla! I, on the other hand am showing my age by asking questions like, 'what's a G6?' Answers please....

I also attended the inaugural Queensmill Lecture delivered by Professor Roy Grinker. Grinker is an anthropologist, autism parent and author of 'Isabel's World', a survey of how autism is viewed worldwide.

It was an inspiring evening- Grinker is very hot on de-stigmatising autism as he believes that this is the primary problem facing autism.

I think most parents would agree the treatment of disabled people as a whole needs to improve.

A recent incident which springs to mind is the unpleasant sexual jokes Frankie Boyle made about Katie Price's autistic son Harvey on his now-cancelled Channel 4 show. 'Jokes' about the benefits of killing disabled children have also appeared on BBC's QI recently. Nice.

Thanks for your always-interesting comments on my last post. I agree whole-heartedly that we need to accept our kids for who they are. But I'm always open to hearing about stuff that can help Lyla.

And I was excited by a game I was sent to review call SAS: Secret Agent Society. In brief, it's a computer spy game which teaches social skills, more to follow in a full post soon....

Hope you're enjoying the Easter sunshine!
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