29/07/2016 4:17 PM IST | Updated 29/07/2016 5:06 PM IST

This Is How Pokemon GO Is Defeating Autism

More and more autistic children are opening up to others while playing the game.

Kim Kyung Hoon / Reuters
Pokemon GO

Little Ralphie is running around catching Pokemon in the playground. He begged his mom to come here after catching his first Pokemon at a bakery. He sees some other children in the park and starts jumping up and down yelling 'POKEMON!!' Others kids are responding too. Ralphie's mother is in tears because her autistic child is interacting with other children and making friends. All thanks to Pokemon GO.

Ralphie's mom wrote a Facebook note describing the experience. She was in shock when her son wanted to ditch his rigid schedule and play Pokemon GO.

"Talking to people. Verbalizing. Participating in speech. With total strangers. Looking up at them. Sometimes even in the eye. Laughing with them. Sharing something in common. This is AMAZING," she wrote. "MY AUTISTIC CHILD IS SOCIALIZING!"


Ralphie Koppelman is just one instance where a child with autism, thanks to the Pokemon GO game, is opening up and socializing with other people. Autistic children are talking to others and asking them for tips and tricks as well.

"If a kid walks up to him and says 'Hey! Want to play a game with me?' he might squeal and flap his hands and shriek, and then want to run around in circles around them, laughing with excitement," his mother Lenore Koppelman told HuffPost.

Kirsty Russel whose two children are autistic is playing the game with the whole family and the effects are showing.

"Usually getting them out of the house is just so hard; I've tried to get them to do Parkrun, but they've never wanted to do that either," Russel said in an interview with ABC.

"This was a really good way for them to get outside and have exercised with an interest of their own ... Hunting Pokemon was just fantastic for my daughter," she added.

"I've always dreamed of having Pokemon in the real world, so this is like it," Russel's daughter Charlotte told ABC. "I don't like walking, but I like it when I have something to do. [With Pokemon] I'm distracted, I'm doing something I like to do; I'm having fun catching Pokemon."

"We're always looking out for really interesting ways to engage our kids, and use the special interests of our kids, because kids with autism often have very particular fascinations that they love. Pokemon has been one of those things for a couple of years that's always coming up on the radar, and now it's entered this new and interesting form," said Dr. Craig Smith who studies the effect of video games on autistic children.

ALSO READ: 8 Advanced Tips For Pokemon GO Players

Smith is also providing inputs to other teachers. He has put a course on iTunes U to teach the basics of the Pokemon world. He believes that the game encourages outdoor activity among all the children.

On the other hand, Mumbai-based consulting developmental pediatrician Dr. Anjana Thadani who works with the children with learning disabilities believes the opposite.

Jose Cabezas / Reuters
Pokemon GO

"I focus on getting the children away from the screen and gadgets as much as possible. Games such as Pokemon GO would help them for a short term but something like Animal Therapy is much better than that. Anything present in the real world helps them more than a virtual game," Dr. Thadani said.

Dr. Peter Faustino who is a school psychologist wrote a post about Pokemon GO on the website Autism Speaks.

"Pokémon GO is giving young adults with ASD their own unique reason to leave the house, albeit if it is to catch pocket monsters," Dr. Faustino wrote.

"As a school psychologist, I would encourage parents to seize the opportunity for their children to capitalize on this gaming experience while at the park or when running errands. My advice is not to judge this new gaming experience as all bad and in need of limits," he added.

Adam Barkworth, a teenager who lives in Manchester, England, and suffers from social anxiety is now more open to interactions. He is going to pubs with his family and talking to strangers in the park. All this happened because he began playing Pokemon GO.

Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of the Pokemon series, was born with Asperger's Syndrome. And this perhaps is his way of giving something back to the community.

Going by news reports, Pokemon GO is being used worldwide in all kinds of positive ways. A man who works at the Boston Children's Hospital posted a message asking people to place more lures around the building so that children could catch more Pokemon.

In another instance, an animal shelter started offering Pokemon GO players dogs to take along for a walk while they are catching Pokemon for a small fee. The shelter earned so much that they have waived any adoption fees for a year.