Just in case you have not heard…the latest mobile craze involves the Pokémon video game originally developed in the late 1990’s by Nintendo. Since its original inception it has grown and morphed into multi versions, card decks, hand held and arcade versions and remains one of most popular best -selling video game franchises, ranking 2nd below Nintendo’s Mario series. The latest version-Pokémon GO has many of the original features of finding and catching creatures but with a twist in that it is using online avatars combined with the camera and GPS system on a smart phone for a virtual reality scavenger hunt. To date there have been over 75 million downloads and is reportedly as popular as Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media giants.
So what does Pokémon GO have to do with special needs?
Physical, occupational, speech therapists, educators and parents are reporting multiple anecdotal stories of how Pokémon is positively benefiting clients, students and children.
1. It helps increase actual physical activity during hospitalization. This pediatric facility is using it to help motivate patients to get out of bed and reduce the fear of hospital confinement.
2. It helps with socialization. As we reported in our Facebook post earlier, many individuals on the autism spectrum are finding common ground socially/emotionally and even as conduit for expressive language skills. Parents report the impact it has had on their communication/interaction with their teenage children.
3. It helps with fine motor and visual perception skills. OT’s at this outpatient center for example, have begun incorporating as part of rehab treatment.
4. It helps with education. On the hunt for the Pokémon characters, users (referred to as trainers) may have Pokéstops at visual/historical landmarks which become an opportunity for a geography/history and/or civics lesson and may also help with mapping/ geospatial skills.
5. It helps all children become more physically active. In our digital world, kids often make the choice to stay inside to play video games and/or use other electronic devices. While Pokémon still involves an online component the nature of the game involves being outside. Studies show that children benefit from spent outdoors.
Of course all recommend adhering to basic safety skills when engaging in the game. Don’t Pokémon and drive (!) follow guidelines for basic safety and look up from your smartphone to stay aware of your surroundings. Are you playing Pokémon GO with your clients and/or children? Please share your stories with us. Have fun and stay safe!