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Child with Autism and Family Share in Online Fun and Games

This blog post is by Leslie Barretta, who lives with her family in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  She is a marketer and connector, with over 20 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry.  Her husband Gene is an author and illustrator of children’s books (http://www.genebarretta.com/) including Zoola Palooza, Amazon Book of the Month June 2011. This was originally posted here.

My son Ben is like many other 8 year olds. He likes computers, Pokemon and Mario Brothers, running around and playing outdoor games, laughing, avoiding homework when he can, andtesting his parents!  Five years ago he was diagnosed with PDD-NOS – Pervasive Developmental Delay Not Otherwise Specified  - which meant he was somewhere on the Autism Spectrum, in a “high” functioning manner.

I was told that only time would tell where he would end up with a permanent diagnosis. He was (and remains) challenged in social situations and required much intervention – OT, PT, Speech and other therapeutic modalities – some conventional and some not.

Our weeks are filled with school, therapy, social skills sessions, and home stuff.  It is not often that I find an experience that brings us together as a family, in a way that supports some of the core teaching elements, reinforces good social interaction that we want him to learn, AND where we can have lots of fun too.  That is until we tried Ohanarama.

We were introduced to Ohanarama about a month ago and it has been a wonderful experience for us.  It allows our family (including Ben’s grandparents) and friends to be connected and it facilitates positive social interactions through messaging, gifting and gameplay.   The games are not only fun, but they are useful teaching tools for social skills.What are social skills? Examples include taking turns or waiting for another person to choose a game they want to play (reciprocity).  It warms my heart when Ben describes his experience playing games with me – through the “better than Skype” video chat feature of Ohanarama:

“I play checkers with my mom while we are (video) chatting which is funny because we wave to each other and then we laugh about the game.”

Usually I am telling Ben to stop playing games on the computer and I normally don’t like the games he is playing.  On Ohanarama, I am totally comfortable with all the games and enjoy how they help me teach Ben to take turns and learn different skills.  It is so crucial for him to have good experiences that help him socially and to use the computer as a bridge to other kids as well as a tool which helps him grow socially.  Ohanarama does this, as opposed to a device that isolates him and only keeps him engaged with loud, busy games.  As Ben says:

“I like Ohanarama because I can chat and send messages with different people in my family.  Then we can add more friends and family who can play with us.  It makes me feel like I’m next to them and connected with them.”

I am really proud of how he has taken to Ohanarama and how he runs to get me and asks me to play.  When we are on the site together and having fun, it brings both of us great joy and many smiles.  As a parent, I can’t ask for more than that:  trustworthy site, educational games that make him think, games that teach him social and play skills and a site that facilitates positive parent/child and social interactions.  I am grateful to the Ohanarama team for creating something so needed!