Wednesday, 24 January 2018

How Youtube and Minecraft helped my autistic son with conceptual thinking

A Minecraft character with a sword, part of the game which helps autistic Anthony develop his conceptual thinking.

Anthony has the type of autism and ADHD that's often not noticed until it's too late.  Anthony speaks, has good eye contact and understands a lot of what's going on around him.  He's on some medication for his ADHD which means that although he moves about and doesn't always pay attention, he's not bouncing off the walls.   But he still struggles in many areas like other kids with the same conditions.

One of these areas is conceptual thinking. Conceptual thinking is the ability to understand a situation or problem by identifying patterns or connections, and addressing key underlying issues.  It's being able to see and sift through information and picking out the relative parts to understand issues or solve problems.   I've written before about a similar idea of using Batman to help ADHD kids with executive function skills.

There are ways to help kids develop these skills, but sometimes of course they manage a semblance of this by themselves.  David, Anthony's younger autistic brother is quite a way off conceptual thinking, but the other day I saw a glimpse of it in Anthony - all thanks to youtube.

I'd say we were pretty big screen time users in our house.  It's something our family benefits from. However, I've generally been quite careful with youtube.  It's only available on one device that our eldest, Anthony uses, and then only through Safari.  He is also limited to watching it as his younger siblings wouldn't necessarily be safe using it.

I was reading a post on Codakid the other day about 7 Surprising Things That Every Parent Should Know About Minecraft, and was only a little surprised to find that Minecraft is now officially the most watched video game on YouTube.  Stampylonghead has nearly 9 million subscribers and billions of video views.

Anthony has been playing online games including Minecraft for a few years now.  I wrote a post last year about how I was as happy to see him playing Minecraft during the sunny summer holidays as I was to see him outside.   If you have a child with autism who likes this game you may well have heard of Autcraft too. Anthony has learned so much from playing Minecraft.

And it turns out from these Youtubers too.  It was a while ago Anthony discovered them on tube when his Dad was trying to find out how to make Redstone torch for him.  I've always used Youtube the same way - to see how to do things.  Like a sort of video Pinterest.

After that though Anthony started mixing watching motorsports videos with Minecraft ones.  And just like all the motorsports, he was absorbing the information.  I didn't think much about it until Anthony and his Dad were one day playing Minecraft together and something happened.

Somehow, they and their Minecrafty selves got themselves into a strange scenario and also managed to get lost, in their own world.

Think as he may, Anthony's Dad couldn't figure out what to do about it.

They stopped playing for a few days.

Then, Anthony did something new.  Anthony, had an idea.

An idea.

Now, I don't know Minecraft at all.  So bare with me if I get some of this wrong.  But essentially, Anthony pulled two or three bits of seemingly unimportant bits of info from two or three Minecraft Youtubers videos and pieced them together to solve all their problems.  Something about restarting in a different mode to get a map, and then retrieving resources... etc etc I got lost them.  His Dad looked at him.

"Anthony, that's brilliant!" he said.

And we were pleased about so much more than his solution.  This demonstrated to us basic conceptual thinking.  Identification of the important issues, pulling relevant information from different sources and creating a solution.

And I'm in no doubt that Youtube played a role in this.  Anthony is a very visual learner. He can learn from videos better than he can listening to a teacher talk.  He's not the only autistic child that find Youtube invaluable as Faithmummy shows.  And Stephs Two Girls shows Minecraft has been part of her daughter's creativity and find Youtube valuable when it comes to understanding communication.

He may have many challenges ahead of him, but I'm, as always, ever so proud of my son.  And his abilities to help himself grow, can only be a positive thing for the future - even if it's via Youtube.


  1. Totally with you; I think YouTube can actually be a brilliant teaching method! And you've reminded me of when that thing of getting lost happened to my girl too... it was extremely stressful for a while until we figured it out! x

    1. Glad you figured it out! And I agree it can be a great teaching method. It's even full of tutorials for loads of things. Just about knowing what works for your kids - or trying to work it out at least. Thanks for commenting Steph.

  2. This is fascinating! I wonder if it's something you can encourage to happen again in some way to build on it. My children haven't got into minecraft yet but I'm sure that time will come! #coolmumclub

  3. I have heard amazing things about Minecraft for children with autism and it's so lovely to hear that modern technology and the likes of You Tube and Minecraft has helped him progress. Thanks for linking up to #coolmumclub hun and hope you're well xoxo

  4. Have you heard of It teaches kids to code in very simple ways. I have my 4th grade students doing it. It is self paced and uses minecraft and other characters. #coolmumclub

  5. That's incredible - our eldest has just started playing with minecraft and in all honesty I had no idea what it was all about.
    Thanks so much for linking to #coolmumclub

  6. Lovely to read, great job there by Anthony! We don't do Minecraft (yet), but we like YouTube too, for several reasons (I started writing a blog post on that a while back, may or may not finish it in the near future...). Penguin being a visual learner is one of them. #BrilliantBlogPosts

  7. Alleluia for posts like this that show all our children are individuals with their own preferred and most effective forms of learning. As a home educator I struggle all the time with wobbles if I educate in different ways from what might be perceived as the norm or as in schools. My children love Minecraft too and I will revisit this post and follow some of those links. Thank you! #TrimphantTales

  8. Tyger watches certain kids' YouTube channels and as weird as that seemed to me at first, I now think they help him in a few ways. The ones he likes to watch are often YouTuber families where the kids are the stars. I think they provide almost like a safe way of practising socialising. The kids in the videos talk to the camera so it's like they're talking to Tyger and he learns certain social norms etc. that he then uses at school.


  9. This is brilliant, sounds like they're making a real difference and the visual side of things is really connecting with Anthony. Lovely to read about it, thanks for sharing with #WotW x

  10. That's brilliant that he figured it out by himself. I hope it gave him a big confidence boost in his own ability to problem solve. #spectrumsunday

  11. That is wonderful! You must be so thrilled he managed to figure something out, and something that neither you or your husband could work out just means bonus points for him! Bravo!
    Thank you for sharing this with us at #TriumphantTales. I hope to see you back tomorrow.

  12. Absolutely brilliant. Tech can be so inspiring and educational can't it. Pokemon is keeping my youngest fit (blogged about it last night)! x

  13. That's brilliant. Well done to Anthony for managing to pull those pieces of information together and use them to solve the problem on Minecraft. #WotW

  14. I love Minecraft. I think it really supports learning. My niece loves it and learns a lot from youtube videos that she then uses. I love Minecraft too and look forward to showing J when he’s older x

  15. I would have been dancing around my living room. It is such a great feeling when you see your children take a step forward, having found their own way to learn.

    Thank you for linking up with #neurodiversityNotions

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