Gameschooling is possible for neurodivergent and disabled learners
Gameschooling is a growing approach to learning that is effective for neurodivergent and disabled learners. By using games as a teaching tool, learners can develop new skills and knowledge in a fun and engaging way.
For many neurodivergent and disabled learners, traditional teaching methods can be frustrating, isolating, and unsupportive. The growing trend in education known as “gameschooling” is revolutionizing how students learn.
This article explores what gameschooling is, how it works, and why it is so effective for neurodivergent and disabled learners.
What is gameschooling?
Gameschooling is an approach to education involving games as a teaching tool. It is a method that has gained popularity in recent years and effectively supports neurodivergent and disabled learners. Gameschooling can be used in a variety of settings, including homeschooling, conventional classrooms, and therapeutic settings. The goal of gameschooling is to make learning fun and engaging for all learners, regardless of abilities.
How does gameschooling work?
Gameschooling works by using games to teach new skills and knowledge. Games can be selected to target specific learning objectives and adapted to meet all learners’ needs. A game designed to teach math skills can be adapted to meet the needs of a learner who needs more support with math by incorporating visual math aids or manipulatives. Games can also teach social skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking.
Note: Games do not need to be subject-specific to be educational. All games provide educational value!
Gameschooling is effective for neurodivergent and disabled learners
- Provide a fun and engaging way to learn that can help reduce frustration and anxiety,
- Provide a sense of belonging and inclusion when everyone can participate in mainstream activities,
- Bring learners together with a common interest,
- Can be adapted to meet the needs of different learners, making them accessible to a wide range of individuals,
- Provide immediate feedback, allowing learners to see their progress and build confidence in their abilities,
- Can be used to learn and practice various skills, including social skills, problem-solving, and critical thinking—all skills necessary for 21st-century learning and work.
Making gameschooling approachable for parents, educators, and therapists
While games may sometimes be considered time-fillers or frivolous activities, games prove to be more than” just a hobby!”
- Are relatively straightforward to introduce to a learning environment,
- Strongly support an existing curriculum,
- Can be effectively woven into a curriculum,
- Provide rapid feedback to help parents and professionals with reporting,
- Can be ideal tools for accommodating different learning styles and abilities
Types of games used for gameschooling
We can use tabletop games (i.e., board games) to teach a wide range of skills, including math, science, social studies, and language arts. Some examples of games we can use for gameschooling include:
Gameschooling can also include digital and video games.
The best types of games are those that align with each student’s passions and interests. For example, a student who loves history might enjoy playing a game that teaches history through interactive gameplay.
“Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.”
~ Diane Ackerman
Gameschooling in various settings
Gameschooling can be used in homeschooling, conventional classrooms, tutoring sessions, and therapeutic settings to supplement traditional teaching methods. Games can revive academic studies!
Since homeschoolers have more time to relax into gameplay, homeschooling is one context where gameschooling is particularly effective. Homeschooling parents use games to supplement the traditional curriculum. Some parents use math games to help their children improve their computational skills, while others use letter games to enhance reading skills.
Conventional classroom settings or one-to-one tutoring sessions also see success with gameschooling. Teachers and tutors use games as a way to engage learners and promote learning in a variety of subjects. History teachers use games like “Jeopardy!” to help students review important historical events, while science teachers use games like “The Game of Life” to teach students about financial literacy.
Gameschooling is also successful in therapeutic settings. Therapists use games to help neurodivergent and disabled clients work on fine and gross motor skills, language and communication skills, and social-emotional development.
“Games aren’t just filler in education. They have the ability to introduce, reinforce, or even assess learning of a given topic.”
~ Kara Carrero
Getting started with gameschooling
Setting up for gameschooling can be an exciting but daunting task. However, with a few simple tips, it can be a fun and rewarding experience for both educators and learners.
- Identify the desired learning goals and objectives to achieve through gameschooling. Whether working on improving social skills, language development, or math skills, countless games can help learners meet specific learning objectives.
- Consider the needs and abilities of all players. Some learners may benefit from games requiring physical movement, while others may benefit from games focusing on fine motor skills. Educators, practitioners, and parents, along with the students can modify existing games to better suit the needs of the learners. Changing a game’s rules or difficulty level can make it more accessible to learners who may struggle with the original version.
- Play often and adjust accordingly. Gameschooling is not a one-and-done type of activity. It’s a practice that requires playing often and adapting to players’ needs on the go!
Challenges and considerations for gameschooling
While gameschooling can be an effective and engaging teaching tool for neurodivergent and disabled learners, there are some potential challenges to consider.
- Learners may not care for games at all! It’s possible that some learners may not care for playing games or learning rules. Never force anyone to join. Continue modeling and have the student watch for a few sessions. When modeling, talk aloud and narrate what you’re doing step-by-step. Sometimes learners will begin to show interest just by observing.
- Losing is hard for some players. For neurodivergent and disabled learners, losing can be emotionally overwhelming and may result in frustration, anger, and sadness. Some may struggle with regulating their emotions, making it difficult to cope with the disappointment of losing. Individuals who need extra support with executive functioning may find it challenging to identify what went wrong in the game and how they can improve in the future. Provide support and strategies to help learners cope with their feelings and learn from their experiences. With patience, encouragement, and appropriate support, learners can develop essential coping and problem-solving skills that will serve them well both in and out of the game.
- Finding a variety of adapted games is difficult or costly. It can be challenging to find games that are both fun and educational and that can be adapted to meet the needs of neurodivergent and disabled players. The trick is to consider adapting games you already own!
Adapting games to meet the needs of neurodivergent and disabled players
Games can be adapted to meet the needs of all learners in various ways.
- Incorporate visual aids
- Modify rules
- Change the playing surface
- Break up the game into smaller tasks
- Incorporate assistive technology and AAC,
For additional tips and ideas, check out Adapting Board Games for Neurodivergent and Disabled Kids.
Adaptations become second nature once we begin to implement them.
“You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.”
- Adapting Matching Games
- Adapting Chutes and Ladders Games
- Adapting Card Games
- Adapting 3D Games
- Adapting Physical Games
- Planning for Adapting Board Games (+ FREE Planner)
- Learning, Education and Games Volume Two: Bringing Games into Educational Contexts
- The Impact of Game-Based Learning in a Special Education Classroom
- The Effectiveness of Intervention with Board Games: A Systematic Review
- The Power of Board Games for Multidomain Learning in Young Children
You can adapt board games to make them inclusive for all learners! Board games are not an add-on or “another thing to do!”
Interested in learning how to adapt board games?
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