Spectrum Insights has been running a D&D program where the focus is on teaching social skills to ASD/ADHD teens and young adults. The goal is to not only help them learn social skills in a fun way, but be able to join existing groups w/ peers and understand the social dynamics of game play. To date we have been focusing on social skills around the table. Primarily how to collaborate, communicate, listen, turn taking and not over sharing. All great skills to master. After a few months I noticed a great deal of clues in campaigns were being overlooked. I chalked this up to inexperienced players. To solve this, I would step out of my Dungeon Master role to give some advice and better understand the game. It helped when it came finding traps, looking for items, investigating objects but not for people or “Non Player Characters”. When a NPC in the game offered a clue, hints or where further social interaction would uncover a way to move the story forward, I would have to force the dialogue. The students were not delving into potential dialogue options. I did consider that my Dungeon Mastering may need work or I was not allowing the players to explore the game in their own unique way. I believe they are indeed exploring the D&D world in their own unique way and its through the Lens of ASD/ADHD.
Students with ASD and many w/ ADHD have social challenges when it comes to curiosity about others. This is not just a general observation on my part:
DSM-5 Autism Diagnostic Criteria
Now back to Dungeons & Dragons and why does this matter?
In a game where storytelling moves the game forward, communication is key. My students enjoy both the action & story telling aspects of the game but need help when it comes in game dialogue involving NPC’s and communicating with other players.
I’ll give 3 short examples where students miss out by not furthering dialogue with NPCs::
What can you do improve the game for your ASD/ADHD students
Do not think of the following as nagging, interrupting the game or stifling their imagination. Consider the following as an opportunity to practice their social skills in a fun setting. I encourage you to write out social reminders on cue cards, similar to spell or condition cards, this will benefit the group. At the end of this article there will be cue cards you can print off and cut out for your next D&D adventure.
1. Before sessions, go over the game mechanics they may need reminding of:
If your ASD players miss out on social cues, they will need a lot of reminders. In game condition cards are used as reminders. The following can be written on a card as a "social" condition card, reminding players what to say when speaking to NPC's.
Have fun, be creative and flexible in your next D&D adventure. Dont forget, there are opportunities here to teach some great new skills to your ASD/ADHD players!
I will be running 2 MORE Dungeons & Dragons groups Virtually using Roll 20:
Dungeons Dragons is hands down one of the best ways to learn social skills.
Students will learn to cooperate, problem solve, listen and work as a team.
The goal of the group is to introduce D&D to Tier 1 ASD/ADHD students wanting to learn or those looking for a group to join. We will be teaching social skills while learning to play the game:
Saturdays: We will be exploring the Lost mines of Phandelver mixed with elements from the Dragon of Icepire peak.
Wednesdays: Lost mines of Phandelver or a new campaign Waterdeep: Dragon Heist or Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus
Who is D&D best suited for and what skills do I come to the table with:
Required for new Players:
Below is one of our cue cards used to help us remember how to talk to other character in D&D....also good tips for out of game interactions.
Our last Workshop for January. Covering the skills where our students need the most support. A little tip before the class: How do monologues hurt friendships? When you dominate the conversation, it gives the message you do not care about the other person and only yourself. You appear very self centered and this affects your likability. People will listen and take interest in you more when you listen to them first! We will discuss how to trim your oversharing to bite size pieces that keeps people interested in you.
We are on week two of our walking socials. I am seeing some happy students each week. Not only during our walk but on Zoom too. I spent some time thinking about this, its community. Over time, the students that see each other often, start to build lasting connections. They look forward to seeing each other every week. Its a break in their routine, a break from loneliness. A chance to share and be heard and listen to others. Lets face it, the mental health of many ASD youth is affected by the lockdown. Small things like, meeting online once a week for a class or social, connecting to each other in group email exchanges, or getting out of the house for walk really makes a difference. Parents, take advantage of what is being offered locally for your ASD child, trust me, it helps, I see changes from just the small steps we take weekly.
Spectrum Insights is in the news:
Click the image below to hear our interview on CFRA with Dahlia Kurtz