Dungeons and Dragons: A Tool to Teach Social Skills to Autistic Kids

Young players hone their social skills and critical thinking during the tabletop night - Taylor Hale

Dungeons and Dragons is an ever growing in popularity tabletop game that combines teamwork, problem solving and imagination into a night of fun and memories. While this tabletop game is often used by many people as a way to wind down and escape from reality, some institutions have used Dungeons and Dragons as a therapy for the disabled to develop social skills and as a safe way to help patients express their inner self.

Several studies have looked into using role playing games as a way to understand the mind of both autistic and schizoidal children and teens. By bringing these kids into a world of fantasy and imagination these kids were able to better express themselves and develop healthier object relations in their day to day life. 

A study by George Enfield, 2006 used a super hero themed RPG to explore and 11-year-old boys impulsivity and boundary problems as well as a group of 11-13 year old's that had been had been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) with one demonstrating aggressive behavior and autistic traits, while the other had a history of abuse and neglect. The study concluded that "In each of the cases, the prominence in the relation between metaphoric role-playing and the client's behavior, both at home and at school is evident."

Another study conducted by Wayne Blackmon,1994 looked at a young suicidal schizoidal teen who was not showing results from conventional therapy. When Dungeons and Dragons was used as a therapy to help the patient learn about himself and grow in a waking fantasy setting, Blackmon found, and concluded, the patient ultimately matured and developed healthier object relations and a better life.

In conclusion, Dungeons and Dragons has been found to be a useful tool in therapy for kids with autism and other mental health conditions. With the rising popularity of Dungeons and Dragons in the past 10 years we may see D&D become a more common therapy for developing social skills for autistic children and helping them better understand themselves and others in a safe setting.