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Sephris

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Gaming For The Mentally Impaired

One of the greatest things about being me is having joined the ranks of breeder which means no matter what happens there will be a part of me that will live on for eternity. But sometimes fate throws you a curveball that you have a hard time dealing with. You see, while I have one boy that is perfectly normal and will take over the family business of evil and mayhem, my younger son is something that I never expected. He was born with three major disorders. First he is autistic, but not in the "Rainman" style. Oh no, the divine powers wouldn't be so kind to me. His autism makes it so he cannot speak and he can't understand all that much of what is spoken to him. He has a form of the "super baby" syndrome where the brain doesn't tell the muscles to stop growing so at 5 years old he is ripped like Jesus. And finally he has Destructive Behavior Disorder which is wonderful during the few rare times it can be focused against an enemy, but not so nice when it is focused on the curtains.

While everyone here save him is addicted to video games, my youngest boy is at a loss when it comes to them and you can tell he knows he is missing out on something great just by the soulful look he can give when you are wrapped up in a good fight or intense storyline. Especially when you scream at him to piss off because you aren't ready to get him the dried cherries he is craving because you haven't wiped out General Knoxx yet. Curse those damned medics! But then, when I was just boredly searching for something useful to write here, I found something that I had never thought would be possible to find. Video games are now able to help children like mine while letting them experience the fun that until now only people with normal brains could find pleasure in. And it was my xbox and the vile, manipulating Kinect, (which I am still in a battle with, but I'm getting the upper hand finally) that is making it all come true.

Now some of my more nerdy minions would want to say to me "But Sephris, they have had programs for special needs children on the IPad for years." And if you do say that to me I will have to set you on fire. And yes, there are helpful programs to do things like help them communicate when they cannot talk. But that is so...educational. And what 5 year old really gives a damn about his S.A.T.s at this point, hmmm? Yes, you hadn't thought of that. This is why I am taking over the world. I know all. And I know now that what the XBox/kinect duo can do is just scraping the surface of something that in the future will be considered standard therapy for every child with mental disabilities.

I watched a video that showed a special education teacher using the Kinect and its ability to track various parts of the body to help a child who was lost within his own mind become focused for the first time on something outside of his own little world. I saw another boy who had no coordination between the two halves of his body get up and dance to music. I saw a little girl with the same communication issue as my son has speak her very first word. And most of you will just think, "well, that's pretty cool, Sephris." But when you have spent every day with your child hoping beyond hope that they will say something, anything, even if it is something profane to a nun and it has never, ever happened, the thought that there may be a glimmer of possibility can take even the coldest heart and turn it into a blubbering mass of tears. And it did.

When I was a boy in school there was a small handful of mentally handicapped children in a tiny classroom. I fondly remember standing at the doorway beyond the teacher's field of view, waving a candy bar before slowly taking a bite out of it so they would all fly into an uncontrollable fit of flailing arms and walrus voices. Now the problem has grown so large that whole schools are dedicated to them. What was once a one in one thousand children disorder is now down to about one in five. For disorders like Autism with the broadness of symptoms it can bring, finding any help for your special needs child is nearly impossible. The government will happily throw money at you to deal with the problem so they don't have to, but otherwise you are on your own and completely inexperienced. Time is the only thing being kind to you, and time takes time.

So it was with great amazement that it wasn't from the journals of psychiatrists or brain doctors that a real breakthrough was made. It was through interactive video games such as Your Shape, a workout game for Kinect. There is something about video games that grabs their little, screwed up brains and wakes it up, so to speak, and at least for a short time helps them to be an active part of the world around them. When that happens a great big world of possibilities for help and healing open up to them. They begin to notice that someone is out there WANTING to draw them out, and feeling wanted they respond in kind. It isn't anything big to someone who isn't in the situation, but to my wife and I it was the first light at a very long and dark tunnel that we had seen. And it was beautiful.

The sad thing about all of this is that it is mostly overlooked by the very people who claim they want to help these kids, because of this there isn't much funding being put into the advancement of the technology. Microsoft is doing their part to be a leader in the field, but they can't do it by themselves. With mental disabilities striking humanity like the plague, one would think this kind of breakthrough would be one of the biggest stories talked about. But it's not. It only took one trip to my son's classroom during a "parent day" for me to understand why. I saw children with issues like my son come in with their parents and these kids were a wreck. They were dirty and their noses were drippy and food clung to their faces and clothing. It was an atrocity. As evil as I am, I take care of my spawn regardless of what ails they have. These parents seemed to have given up on their children. We were in the classroom to talk about how to make the lives better for the kids and all they cared about was Obamacare and Romneytax. Then I realized what true evil was. It was turning off your ability to care for someone who desperately needs it because you don't know how to give it.

Thankfully there are some very wonderful people who are using the video game medium to change all of that. They are bringing miracles to parents daily through this medium. So I have made it my personal mission to be the voice of those who do not even know the words and to scream to all of you to help bring the dawn of this technology high in the sky so every child can feel it's warmth. Bring praise to companies like Microsoft that have taken the bold first steps and let them know just how great a tool they have created. Because a video game can bring hours and hours of great entertainment...and now it can bring life and happiness to families like mine. It would be a crime to let something like this just fall back into the cracks of society once more.

(PS. This is a true story. The boy in the pic I provided is my special little guy. I can't imagine life without him, regardless of what problems he may have.)

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Sephris1476d ago

For those that are interested, there is a really good article about it here: http://www.geekwire.com/201...

Emilio_Estevez1476d ago

Very touching and real there Sephris. I can kind of relate; I have a paraplegic friend who can barely use his hands and has been bedridden for over a year. Normally he can still go and do things in his wheelchair but since being bedridden one of his only joys has been video games. He woops me up on his retro duo.

Sephris1476d ago

Thanks Emilio, your words mean a lot to me. When we first found out he was autistic it was hell on us. There was nothing there to help us figure out how to handle what we were going through, much less how to help him get through life with his condition. We had to bump our head and scrape our knees the entire way. Now things are doing pretty good and we know how to help him. But we had to do a lot of research and basically throw our personal lives into the hands of specialists that were themselves not quite sure what to do. He injures himself often, and it is not uncommon for him to have bruises on his body. You don't know how many times I've had child protective services called on me from people who didn't understand the situation and thought the worst. I really don't mind having gone through it though. If even one family can benefit from what I am saying then it is worth everything that's happened. And you are right, it isn't just the autistic that can gain from what consoles have the ability to offer now. We just have to let the ones who have developed the technology for people like my son and your friend that they are doing a great job and not to stop. It's kind of hard to do that when most people don't realize it's an issue to be brought up. Tell your friend I hope he kicks my butt should we ever face one another online. I won't make it easy for him though. He deserves the respect of being treated normally. :)

AceofStaves1476d ago

Having been physically disabled since birth, I know firsthand the joy that gaming can bring to the disabled. There aren't words to describe the sense of 'freedom' I get when I'm playing a game like 'Assassin's Creed,' and guiding Altair to do physical feats I can't, and will never, be able to do - even something as simple as walking unaided down a corridor. Sometimes it's simply a great to escape from the realities of life for a while.

Gaming in childhood also helped me develop my hand-eye coordination to a level which I might not have achieved otherwise.

All the best to you and your family.

Sephris1476d ago

Thanks Ace! You are living proof that games can turn the disabled into the enabled. And I agree that even if you can't do something, with games you can feel what it would be like. And that can give you the inspiration to work and improve on the things you can do. Thank you for opening up as well with me. It can feel pretty lonely sometimes, but this just shows no one is really alone. And that there is always someone out there that cares about what you are going through. I hope games keep giving you the inspiration to improve yourself. And know you have me in your corner rooting for ya. Well, when I'm not trying to cause the apocalypse and all. ;)

thorstein1476d ago

Not only that, it levels the playing field. Everyone is equal in a game.

Jurat1476d ago

Very touching blog.

We live in a fascinating digital age that enriches all our lives and allows everyone the opportunity to realise their potential. Technology is helping to break down barriers and social stigmas, but I agree that it's perhaps not celebrated/utilised as much as it should be.

Props to you and the little guy.

Axonometri1476d ago (Edited 1476d ago )

Sephris,

My 5 year old has AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER and a few of the typical associated diagnoses like the Hyper disorders. I am a single father of 3 boys... 8, 5, 4. My Autistic boy has been taking medicine to slow his heart rate down in order to control his insatiable desire to just keep going and going into the wee hours of the night. It has become much better over last year.

There is something amazing about the connection of their special minds and technology. Especially devices like Kinect not to discount the others. My boy shares the same incredible awaking from the same types of sources. The growth and rewiring taking place since he discovered his passion for games and technology devices is absolutely incredible. Not even the professionally trained help my son receives can even begin to compare to the kind of awakening and rewiring that technology has given him.

Bless you and yours. God speed to your son and family.

Thank you sincerely!

Sephris1476d ago

Wow..that has to be difficult. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my wife and family giving help and support to my son as well. but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything. I'm sure you can relate when I say you really begin to understand just what you can endure and be capable of when you have children like we have.

I'm glad your son has the games to help him out, and that you were wise enough to recognize it. Timing is everything when it comes to special needs kids and if you miss your window of opportunity there is no guarantee you can get another one.

It is my hope that Your son, my son and everyone else who is using games as a tool to combat their conditions have the ability to use this kind of media all their lives. We have people in the position to help and let this new field of therapy blossom into something that can do a great deal of good. But people wont put too much into something unless they know it is important to others. I wrote my blog for that very reason and I am glad to have your support. These kids may not have a perfect life, but we can do our share to at least help them have a happy one.

Good luck with your adorable son, Axonometri. (I am assuming that is him in your profile picture). I know what a handful Autistic kids can be, so if you ever need someone to vent on, I'm here for ya. :)

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