One father is changing the way children with Autism play the world’s most popular game – Minecraft.
In 2013, Stuart Duncan noticed parents of children with autism, were complaining about their kids being bullied in online communities.
Realising that Minecraft was harbouring online bullies and discouraging children on the autism spectrum from playing, he decided to do something about it.
He then created Autcraft, a closed online community within Minecraft – just for kids with Autism.
Duncan, who also has Aspergers and a son with autism, was astounded at the response from the online community; “in two days I got over 750 emails asking to join”.
The game, which has been popular with people on the autism spectrum, appeals to those who often have an ‘engineering’ brain and enjoy construction. The creative nature of the game allows the player to construct imaginative environments out of cubes, as well as explore the lands of others.
Autcraft was started by Duncan to allow the children who love the game, to play in a safe environment, from that, parents and therapists alike have applauded the site for providing huge developmental gains for their children.
The community now has over 6000 members who are each vetted by Duncan, to ensure that only the children and their parents or carers can access it.
Autcraft is also constantly patrolled by Duncan and his team of “senior helpers” to maintain a safe environment and assure the children are interacting appropriately while allowing individuality.
“Autcraft removes the fear of embarrassment, teasing, bullying and judgment,” says Duncan.
“[The members] don’t judge each other or tease each other. They can share their special interests and start making friends and that’s when the barriers come down and they start reading and writing and making real progress. If a teenage boy loves My Little Pony and wants to create an area for that, they can do that — anywhere else on the planet where a teenage boy did that, they’d get bullied.”
Associate Professor Peter Enticott, a Deakin University autism expert has stated that Autcraft is incredibly important in taking away the “real world stimulus” that is often overwhelming and challenging for children on the spectrum.
“Here you can strip a lot of that away and just focus on something they enjoy doing and have the social element as well — I think it’s fantastic. One of the great misconceptions about kids with autism is that they don’t want to socialise but that is simply not true. Often they lack the resources to establish those friendships or keep those friendships going.”
Whilst Duncan is pleased with the positive response he’s had since setting Autcraft up, he is also left flabbergasted that such a forum had to exist because of online bullying.
“I’m glad it’s been successful and helped so many people but at the same time, it’s such a tragedy.”
For anyone interested Autcraft for their children, visit the website here.