Minecraft and children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

If you are a parent you have probably heard of Minecraft. If you are a parent of a child with autism then you have almost definitely heard of Minecraft and you may just know the ins and outs of it.

Just incase you are not aware, Minecraft is a computer game built around mining resources, like timber and ores, and then using them to make tools, machines and buildings. The game has been described as a virtual Lego world.

A lot of children with autism love the game. Some play it obsessively and spend their spare time, when they aren’t playing, watching youtube videos about playing! 

So why does Minecraft have such an appeal to children with autism?

This is a game where there is freedom to play and do as you please. You can wander around doing as you please and you can build anything. This is interesting, considering the fact that kids affected by autism normally want rules, and to knowing what to expect, but my son explained that he likes that he can’t go wrong and that makes sense. Minecraft provides information in a visual way and has a certain amount of predictability.

Minecraft is easy. You don’t have to be brilliant at it to play. You can start off building small things or just smashing things and digging holes ( about as much as I have ever mastered!)  and you can learn to do more at your own pace. Therefore, there is no need to get frustrated at the game for being too hard. The child can control the game.

Minecraft enables children who may not be successful at much of school etc. to be successful within the game and this helps to build their self esteem.

Minecraft is like living in another world. The world has similar logic to the real world but can be manipulated and you can build whatever you want whilst following your own interests.

Minecraft can be likened to lego as in you can build without getting it wrong and you are able to smash the bits you don’t like and carry on.

There are different versions of the game that children can flip between. They can create with no risk or they can play with dangers or other players that can “kill” them but they always respawn as there are endless lives.

Minecraft allows children with autism to have control over their environment whilst being able to be creative and productive in their own way. Children are able to discover and create without becoming anxious.

Minecraft also helps with social skills. When children work together in multiplayer mode, they learn how to talk to each other, share ideas and say what they want others to do. By understanding why people act  in a certain way in Minecraft, children can start to make sense of real-world situations.

So is Minecraft all good then?

The only issue my son has had on Minecraft over the years is his lack of social understanding. He has got himself “kicked” from games but not understood why which has frustrated and upset him. Other people online aren’t always nice to him either and he is easily subject to cyber bullying. 

However, we recently discovered the Autcraft community and he has taken to playing minecraft using Autcraft as his server.  He has been using Autcraft for about three weeks and I haven’t seen him this enthusiastic about minecraft in years!

Stuart Duncan, the creator of Autcraft, got the idea when he wrote a blog post about his own experiences with autism as well as bringing up his son with autism. On chatting to other parents of autistic children who loved minecraft he realised a lot of these children were bullied online and decided to make a safer place to play. In 2013 he set up Autcraft, a server for minecraft which is exclusively for people with autism and their families. The server works as invite only. You can request to join but are vetted first. It took two weeks for my son to be allowed to play from when he applied.

The Autcraft server has administrators who know about autism, either because they are autistic themselves or they have a family member who has autism. There are understanding online helpers too who can help you in the game if needed.

Autcraft is a nice and safe place to play. There is no bullying, killing, stealing, griefing or swearing. Admins track play and chat and are actively involved in keeping it safe and friendly. 

Autcraft currently has a Halloween Village which my son is very excited about. Halloween isn’t something a lot of children with autism get involved in for reasons outlined in this post. It is great for my son to be able to join in with Halloween as part of a safe community in a way which he feels comfortable with. 

So far my son has been very impressed with Autcraft. It is now his favourite Minecraft server. I asked him why he likes Autcraft so much and this was what he said:

“Its fun, its better than other servers because it has different modes and mini games and the owner of the server comes online to talk to us every Monday. Everyone on the server is really kind.” 

Sounds good to me!

Thankyou for taking the time to read this post.  If you would like to read more then feel free to follow my blog or like my Facebook page which I keep up to date with new posts as they are written. You can also find me on Twitter @KidsOnTour1


8 Comments Add yours

  1. Robyn says:

    Great info! My son plays it as well. This week I was in his classroom as a parent helper and some of the kids in my group started talking about Minecraft. A couple of the kids said they were not allowed to play it because “killing” was involved. I guess I could see why some parents may prevent their kids from playing it, but Declan enjoys it so and I do not think he is anymore interested in the “get you” play as in the “free play.” I also find when I watch him play – the music is SO SOOTHING! I feel like I relax and am ready to meditate or do yoga. I can see how the music may help calm him as well. Great post!

    1. I dont think my son has ever been that interested in the killing side of it either and personally I would rather he play minecraft than a lot of the alternatives out there, although I can understand why some parents would say no. You are right about the music too, I think it must be calming!

  2. fatamsimth says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. I also have concerns about online bullying toward our son, and it is nice to know there is a safe place out there in the gaming world.

    1. You’re welcome. So far he loves it!

  3. GamerKid2714 says:

    Minecraft is a cool game. I play it a lot. I was diagnossed with Autism when I was 7 and I have been playing Minecraft since I was 5. I have found that Minecraft has helped me with my creative skills a lot.

    1. Thats really great that it has helped you! It is a good game 😊

  4. I think that autistic kids have an overactive imagination, like kids that have adhd like me . so minecraft is like a digital version of there imagination so they can do amazing things!!

  5. I love how you have described it! It sounds like you are very good at Minecraft!

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