Various Games That Can Help Kids with Special Needs
COMMUNICATION – games about storytelling, social modelling & language patterns
- Cool School: Where Peace Rules (Mac & Windows) – When the students at Cool School need help resolving their conflicts, they turn to you, the player, to help them make good choices. Players are given a mission to bring peace to Cool School by helping students resolve their conflicts peacefully. On their mission, kids watch 26 videos of social stories in which students argue over a common issue, such as cheating on a test or not letting someone join their team. Players hear both sides of the story, then choose from four options about how the characters should respond to resolve the conflict. Then the video continues to show whether that choice improves the situation. If so, the player earns a trophy; if not, the player keeps trying to make the right choice.
As you explore the school, you’ll encounter diverse students in familiar conflicts. You’ll hear both sides, then decide what the characters should do. To make the right choice, you’ll need to consider what’s fair, kind, honest, and best for everyone. Just like the characters, it’s OK to make mistakes — you can keep trying until you get it right. By the time you finish, you’ll be a resolution rockstar!
- Itzazoo (Windows) – Kids’ drawings are animated and incorporated into this learn-to-read game. Elephants, lions, turtles, polar bears, and monkeys invite your child to come inside their enclosures for silly adventures that teach your child to read. When kids click on the animals, they talk to them via word bubbles. By mousing over the words, kids can have them highlighted and read aloud. The animals ask kids to help in their adventures by drawing objects. Using crinkly translucent paper that magically appears on the screen, kids can draw objects that then come alive and get incorporated into the ongoing story. Kids will also have to be creative in helping the animals, because sometimes the animals’ requests aren’t obvious. For example, when you need to find 10 penguins and you only see one, you learn by experimenting that if you click on the one, it will lay an egg to produce more.
- Storybook Workshop (Nintendo Wii) – Reading fairy tales aloud will change the voice of the kids to fit the scene. Storybook Workshop brings 16 classic and new fairytales to the Wii for an interactive reading experience. You can opt to have the tales read out loud by a professional storyteller, read them to your self while watching the animations play on the screen, or read them aloud and record your readings so that you can play them back later. When reading and recording, you can opt to turn on the Magic Voice feature which alters your reading voice to make it sound like the character who is speaking. You can also bring your favourite Mii (your Wii avatar) into a story where it will appear as a character. In addition to the fairytales, there are also sing-along-songs to record, paintings to create using only your voice, and other learning activities.
MOTOR SKILLS – strengthen muscle memory and put a name to an action. These are games that encourage movement like dancing, sports, drawing or handwriting
- Active Life: Magical Carnival (Nintendo Wii) – tracks players’ foot movement. Gets the kids moving to test their ability to follow directions quickly, their skill at matching colours, shapes and patterns and their short term memory.
Active Life Magical Carnival invites families to step into a fantasy theme park full of motion-controlled mini-games. You will tame lions and walk tightropes under a circus big top; you’ll ride broomsticks and chase ghosts in a wizard’s castle; you’ll climb masts and duel buccaneers on a pirate ship; and more. Games are played with both the Wii remote and the Active Life floor pad.
- Disney’s Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox One, Xbox 360) – An innovative rhythm game that teaches kids about music. Gives plenty of physical exercises when kids move like a conductor manipulating and creating music.
In this game, players enter the magical realms of Fantasia, selected by the legendary sorcerer Yen Sid to hone their musical and magical prowess as his new apprentice. “Fantasia: Music Evolved” takes players on an interactive motion-controlled journey through worlds of music and magic, unleashing their creativity along the way.
Using Kinect motion control technology and natural, controller-free gameplay, players control the music flow from some of the industry’s biggest acts, including electronic DJ and producer AVICII, chart-topper Bruno Mars, and rock royalty Queen. “Fantasia: Music Evolved” gives players the power to change the mix of their chosen songs in real-time, choosing between the original recording and new remixed versions, or adding new layers of music via magical manipulators that allow them to change music in new ways.
- LetterSchool (iOS & Android) – kids learn to write letters of the alphabet by knowing the starting points of each stroke, trace the letter and write the letter by themselves. Kids feel rewarded when a drawn letter becomes animated.
In LetterSchool, kids can practice writing letters in any order they choose. The app guides them to first tap on the starting points for each stroke, then trace the letter, and finally write it without hints. In the first two steps, kids see an animation as they tap and trace the letter. If kids struggle in the last part, hints show up to help them. The default is uppercase letters, and kids or parents can adjust the settings to show numbers or lowercase letters.
ORGANIZATION – emphasize visual scheduling, breaking topics into smaller ones, managing time, developing routines, transitioning activities.
- Disaster Hero (Mac & Windows) – demonstrates what to do in cases of emergency/natural calamity.
Disaster Hero puts players in the position of a HERO that sets out to conquer all major natural disasters. Players complete a series of activities, each of which is connected to a specific type of disaster. For example, players are shown two versions of the same room and must find which room is missing the appropriate disaster preparedness items (e.g., an emergency kit, extra food for their pets, a list of emergency contact numbers). After players complete the activities for each disaster, they receive a certificate that they can print at home, recognizing them as a DISASTER HERO.
- Engineering.com Games – practice decision making, prediction, deduction to help build sequential directions.
The Egineering.com Games page is essentially a collection of game links with popular and featured ones at top. Each game has its own qualities; some are RPG- or quest-oriented whereas others feature physics, and still more resemble spatial logic board games. All are single-player games, and they run either within or separately from the website. There’s no login or registration; kids simply play. There are tons of options: Koutack asks kids to stack adjacent squares in a particular sequence so one stack is left at the end, testing spatial reasoning and problem-solving; Factoryballs is a sequence puzzler that challenges kids to create balls according to specifications using belts, sunglasses, paint, and more; and related games are listed at the bottom for kids.
READING & WRITING
- Mia Reading: The Bugaboo Bugs (Mac & Windows) – associating words with images, phonics, spelling and sentence structure.
Kids go on an learning adventure with an adorable little mouse. Mia’s house has been invaded by the Bugaboo Bugs, careless insects that leave messes. Fearing that the humans who share the house with Mia and her family will notice the pests and decide to call an exterminator, Mia decides to do something to convince the bugs to move on. As kids play through the adventure with Mia, they’ll encounter 12 educational games that reinforce reading and writing skills taught in kindergarten through third grade.
The games can be played on four levels of difficulty. As Mia seeks help and advice from others, most of the characters she meets have a game they need her to play before they can help her. In one, to get a bee’s help, you place lights on a board in a sequence to either create letters or, at the higher levels, words. In another, you sort out picture stamps so that they create a story. The games cover associating words with images, phonics, spelling, sentence structure, vocabulary, reading comprehension, word recognition, rhymes, logic, and more.
- Sribblenauts Unlimited (Android, Wii U, 3Ds, iOS, Windows) – use of vocabulary while solving a puzzle.
Max, the perpetually smiling star of Scribblenauts Unlimited, has done a bad thing at the game’s outset. After playing a prank on someone with his magical notebook, which lets him conjure up anything he wants simply by writing it down, his sister is cursed to slowly turn into stone. The only things that can save her are starites — little yellow stars earned by doing good deeds. So Max heads out into the world looking to use his notebook for the greater good. Under the player’s guidance, he helps get cars running again by summoning mechanics, serves people in a restaurant by creating their ideal meals, and even ensures a first date goes smoothly by helping a guy procure some decent duds, a present, and a ride. In fact, players can help these people however they like, writing into existence anything they can think of that might solve their problems, from star-spangled bears to unreliable time machines. The object of the game is not only to solve problems, but to do so in fun and funny ways — like, say, putting out a kitchen fire with a thunderstorm. There are dozens of areas for Max to explore and hundreds of puzzles for players to solve, which should keep kids busy for quite a while.
APPS FOR KIDS ON THE AUTISM SPECTRUM
- Calm Counter (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) – social story and anger management tool. Learn self awareness as they begin to identify when they “need a break” and practice calming down.
- Peppy Pals Sammy Helps Out (iPhone, iPad) – helps kids who struggle with social situations and empathy.
- Popplet (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) – creates an interactive outline of related ideas. Helps kids who have problems with organization and visual memory when they insert words, images and their own drawings.
- Proloquo2Go (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) – kids who have basic to severe challenges learn how to effectively say what, need, feel, think and even social manners.
- The Social Express II (iPad) – kids learn to identify the feelings of their friends, develop coping strategies, know the importance of eye contact and other social skills that are important in daily life.
- Conversation Builder Kids (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad) – Kids practice conversations with virtual peers in typical social situations. Given a photo of a social setting, they pick one of three sentences that would be most appropriate socially, record it, listen to a response, and continue through the conversation in the same way with up to eight exchanges. When kids select the right answer, a green record button pops up under the photo, and the correct sentence is left alone above the photo. Conversation topics include a base conversation module, animals, friends around town, holidays, playground, water, and winter.
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