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Family Connections Through Online Gameplay: Ohanarama

Jane Hoffer is the founder and CEO of Ohanarama.  A proud mother of three teenagers, she is also an accomplished technology entrepreneur.  Her vision for Ohanarama is to strengthen family bonds through the creative use of today’s technologies.


Disney’s 2002 movie, Lilo and Stitch, made popular the phrase, “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind or forgotten.”  I can hear my children reciting it as if it were yesterday. This was the inspiration for what has become Ohanarama, the first safe social place online for families of elementary school aged children.


The extended family is the original social network and an integral part of a child’s growth and development. However, for many families, grandparents and cousins can live quite a distance away, and the opportunities to play and interact in person are becoming more and more rare.  Anyone that’s overheard a phone conversation between an adult and a young child can attest to the fact that, “What did you do today?”  “Uh, I don’t know.” is not that fulfilling for either party.  But give them a game to play together and anything can happen!


Ohanarama is packed with different activities for the family.  There are both educational, as well as just pure fun, mini games that players can play and then challenge other family members to play and beat their scores.  Our Relativity Quiz Games (modeled after the Newlywed Game) has family members guessing at how each other answers questions about things like animals or travel.

And finally, families love to play traditional board games such as checkers and chess as well as fun favorites like Battleship and Mancala.  Family members can play turn based (think Words with Friends) or if they are online at the same time can play real time with video chat!


We hear from many families that they use Ohanarama between family holidays to keep connected.  The Leslie family located throughout New England has 10 members in the Ohanarama network, ranging in age from 60 down to 5.  They like that they can keep “in contact and in friendly competition with your family!”

We were especially interested when we learned of the Barretta family who found joy with their child Ben using Ohanarama.  Ben, who has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, likes to “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.” Ben’s mom Leslie loves that Ben is learning social and play skills and even more importantly that they are experiencing positive parent/child social interactions.

As a founder of Ohanarama, I am looking to incorporate more activities and content that will provide positive experiences for families of children on the spectrum.  I appreciate your comments and ideas and look forward to engaging with this dynamic community.


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.