This post is both to test the benefits of educational games by Orchard toys for children with autism when played with in an educational setting and also to look at how children on the autism spectrum play alongside one another, the development of social interaction and social skills when playing games aimed at improving such skills.
Orchard Toys are one of the UK’s leading brands in educational toys, with their games and puzzles being used within nurseries, schools and of course the home! These are games that seek to promote educational progression as-well as good old fashion fun. I’ve been incredibly lucky to obtain such a fine and well-regarded brand as my Britmums Live 2012 sponsor which is fantastic as this also means I will hopefully be able to help them on their mission!
Orchard Toys told me that they wanted to gain a better understanding and clear insight into how our children with additional needs, especially those with autism and special educational needs, play and learn, what skills they benefit from and what us parents look for when buying our children educational games. This would allow the brand a way of knowing which of their toys will benefit such children while allowing them to take any findings into consideration when creating and launching new product lines.
I visited the brand online and browsed their games section, selecting a couple of games to test.
I then had an idea and went about contacting my sons independent special school (a specialist school for children on the autism spectrum aged between 5-16 years) My idea was to donate the games to the school in exchange for some feedback on how the children found them, therefore gaining the opinions of more than one child on the autism spectrum. Instead a small group of children all with their own abilities and interest could test these games (all children are different including those children with autism, no two children on the spectrum are the same regardless of the traits they may share)! I would also gain the opinion of the teacher, a professional in education and one that understood children with autism and special educational needs. At home Little man would be forced to play this with his “typical” peers or siblings which would normally result in a war. This way I’d be able to also discover just how far my own child had come (a child taught in isolation with no peer interaction for over a year) and how he now interacts with children with similar thinking styles and difficulties with in areas of social skills interaction & communication.
Luckily, Baston House School accepted and loved the idea!
THE GAMES I CHOSE AND WHY!
What a performance, a game aimed at children between the ages of 5-12 (though this is great for the whole family including those older children) and can be played in groups of 2-6 players. My reasons for the selection are as follows: Good links to the National Curriculum in English and Maths, the encouragement in both personal and social skills and the developmental benefits it offered in terms of language and communication skills.
Players must act out certain actions, example… pretending to be a monkey, make the noise of a firework or even try to wiggle their ears. If the others fail to guess before the time runs out the child then uses a magical decoder to reveal a forfeit.
The second game I chose, was ‘What’s Rubbish’ designed for 2-4 players and aimed at ages 5-10. Little man’s class consists of children with mixed abilities and of the ages 9-11 years old. With only around 5-8 children per class, so I wasn’t worried about those older children of 11 (like my little man) as the age recommendation wouldn’t be an issue. This game again has links to the National Curriculum in the area of maths! Other benefits developmental benefits are, strategic thinking and again the development of both personal and social skills.
Little man had told me that he had learnt quite a lot about recycling at his school, so I thought this would make a great educational tool for the classroom. The game requires players to collect different types of rubbish to put into the recycling bin, being careful to avoid litterbugs.
Once the games arrived I sent them into school with Little man and here’s how it went!
What a Performance: The Class teacher ‘Miss Bell’ stated that the game created a lot of interest amongst the children and as I suspected it was a huge hit.
The class teacher described ‘What a performance’ as a great game & learning tool for children on the autism spectrum, she noted that the games requirement for a child to either act or mime while the remaining children guess what it is they are doing, helps the development of theory of mind, (understanding that other people have different thoughts and feeling) an important life skill for these children. The children worked in groups of 4 for around half an hour. The teacher empathised that although this may not seem long, it is however, probably the longest time the children have played a game as a group… Result!
The fact that Little man actually managed to remain engaged for this length of time given that he was in a group of 4, is such a positive for us! Before starting this school, he was taught in isolation away from his peers for almost a year, so this is a huge step in procress for both Little man and the extended family.
Lastly, it was reported that all the boys really loved the magical decoding feature that reveals the secret message on the back of the cards. It sounds as if it was definitely a great feature that helped keep the boys engaged in the game.
The children played the second game ‘What’s rubbish’ on a different day as to play both together would have been far too much for them. The teacher noted that although this is a very good game, the children found this game slightly more complicated than the first. It was noted how it took quite a few reads and one really interested child to understand it, to be able to play! It was noted that in actual fact, it was my son, Little man who was one of the first to lose interest (which isn’t surprising given it takes a lot to engage him if it’s not transport or Lego related). It’s very common for children on the spectrum to have special interest and therefore engage little in other activities.
Little man said it was more complicated as it required him to remember too much information at one time (again this is a common difficulty amongst children on the spectrum). However this game could become something of a valuable resource for improving such skills as these.
The teacher finished by stating that the format of both games was really good, really colourful and easy to read. The teacher noted how she had used Orchard Toys within her last school and remained impressed.
So, all in all, I think that by donating the games to the school, we managed to gather some great information on the benefits of Orchard Toys when used as an educational resource in the classroom.
The children clearly enjoyed the first game more than the second which makes “What a Performance’ our winner, though we think that both are fantastic.
Visit Orchard Toys for even more games and puzzles for all ages and abilities
Lastly, a huge thank you to Orchard Toys for supplying these lovely games and both the children and teachers at the school for taking part.
- The 2012 London Toy Fair Brings Great Toys For Children On The Autism Spectrum (aspergersinfo.wordpress.com)