Autism In The News: Video Game Promotes Social Engagement; Employment For Autistic Adults

April is National Autism Awareness Month

April is National Autism Awareness Month

As many readers of this blog are probably aware, April is National Autism Awareness Month. Since the 1970s, the US has recognized April as a special opportunity to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community.

As we have previously mentioned in our post New CDC Report Shows a Startling Rise in Autism Among Young Children, the rate of children diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) has increased to 1 in 68, an rise of 30% in just two years. Nearly 60,000 12 year olds are likely to have some form of Autism, and, according to author and autism advocate Linda Davis, “Assuming that rate holds, by 2016… the number of American adults (those 22 and over) with autism is expected to be nearly 1.5 million.”[1]

With that in mind, Autism has been in the headlines quite a bit over the last few weeks. In fact, two news items this week hold relevance for both children and adults on the ASD.

Video game promotes social engagement for autistic children

First, the University of Southern California (USC) reported on a video game created by USC students to help promote social engagement for autistic Children.[2]

While iPhones, iPads and other Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices, and a variety of apps developed for them, have been helping nonverbal individuals to learn and communicate with the “outside world” for a number of years, aid for the development of social interaction skills has been lacking, until now.

The game Social Clues, which was developed by a team of 35 USC students, including engineering, MBA, design and others, transports players to a make-believe world that entertains, while teaching children on the spectrum to make eye contact, listen to others and engage in conversation.

Players control game characters as they traverse a stylized, cartoon world to search for their lost toys. Behind the scenes player actions are tracked via key metrics, which will provide parents and therapists informative data and insight into player progression and behavioral change.

Social Clues is considered a ‘Serious Game,’ a new category of video games most simply defined as games with a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. ‘Serious Games’ are often simulations of real-world events or practices designed for the purpose of solving a problem; they are entertaining, but with a central purpose to train or educate users.

Social Clues is being developed initially for the Apple iPad, with future potential for additional touch screen devices and platforms. For more information about the game, visit the Social Clues website.

Watch the Social Clues Trailer

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Employment For Autistic Adults In The News

News about jobs for adults with autism also made the headlines this week.

Father Opens Car Wash to Provide Employment for His Son and Other Autistic Adults

In his report Dad Builds a Business With Autistic Employees, NBC News correspondent Harry Smith tells the story about the Rising Tide Car Wash in Parkland, Fla.[3}, where most of the employees have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder.

Opened by John D’Eri to give his son Andrew, and others on the autism spectrum, a place to earn a paycheck, the car wash is not a charity or a “sheltered workshop,” but a business with the potential to keep growing. He also hopes that Andrew and his 35 coworkers can build a community of support, perhaps even gaining a level of independence that they were unable to attain on their own. Read more

Watch Harry Smith’s NBC News Report, Dad Builds a Business With Autistic Employees


1. Individuals on the Spectrum, Autism Society
2. Video game promotes social engagement for autistic children, Mark Ballon, April 21, 2014; USC News, University of Southern California
3. Car Wash Offers Employment to Autistic Young Adults, Harry Smith, April 21,2014; NBC Nightly News (