Starting university can be a daunting experience for many students but especially for those with autism, which makes social interaction more challenging.
De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) is helping autistic students coming to university to meet each other before they even set foot on campus, using the popular game Minecraft.
Gamers create their own worlds by using virtual blocks to make cities, incredible buildings and more. Players play alone or team up, forming friendships.
DMU’s autism officer, Clare Squires, came up with the idea to help support students with learning differences – and the feedback has been “amazing”, she said.
“it has been brilliant. We have had such lovely comments from students who have been delighted that this is in place already before term starts. It is the first time we have done this, and I’m hoping that we will see people start to form friendships through this.
“It’s particularly important at the moment, as Covid-19 has affected all aspects of student life. The usual avenues of making friends face-to-face, such as having a coffee between lectures, is a reduced option so we thought this would help people make friends but in a remote setting.”
DMU’s Minecraft project has been running for just over a week and already Clare’s had emails from students delighted with the idea. One said: “This is honestly an amazing idea!” Another wrote: “Honestly I've always been obsessed with Minecraft, so this is great.”
The invitation to join the Minecraft group was sent to all students coming to DMU who disclose they either have a diagnosis of autism, or believe they have the condition.
Studies have already shown that playing Minecraft can help those with autism. The structured nature of the Minecraft game helps people to create their own safe, virtual environment.
It is not the only support being offered to students who have autism. This week, Clare began the first of nine sessions to help new students discover more about DMU’s welfare team, as well as introducing them to chat forums and answering questions.
“We want our students to feel part of the university family, meet key members of the team and get to know us, see we are approachable and are here to help. I’m hoping that our students will develop friendships over these sessions or at least get to know each other a bit better so when term starts, it is a less daunting because they already have some familiarity with DMU.”
Posted on Tuesday 25th August 2020