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Special Needs and Learning Difficulties

Is there a downside when a kid has a singular focus on one specific game?

Many kids enjoy one specific app or game and can become absorbed to the exclusion of other interests. Playing the same game provides a certain level of comfort and familiarity. For kids on the autism spectrum, repetition is not uncommon, and, for kids with ADHD, it can be easy to "hyperfocus" on a specific game. Many games and apps are designed to keep the player coming back for more -- and they often don't have an endpoint, which also makes it difficult for kids to stop playing.

Getting deeply into a game can be a needed respite from the challenges of social interaction. But focusing on one game can cause difficulty with transitions. If it's a challenge to get your kid to stop playing an absorbing game, you can use verbal, auditory, and visual techniques and strategies to help your kid transition more smoothly. Try saying, "Five more minutes until we need to switch games!" Or try making a specific sound such as ringing a bell, playing a song, or using a buzzer to signal the end. Let your kids know specifically what's coming up next and what the first step for them is.

In some cases, apps can be a big help. Try these ideas:

  • Timers. You can use anything from an egg timer to a timer app such as Time Timer or Timers4Me – Timer and Stopwatch to show your kids how long they've been playing and how much time they have left.
  • Picture or word schedules. FTVS – First Then Visual Schedule and My Video Schedule are apps kids can use to see and hear when they need to move from a specific app or game. (You also can create your own visual schedules to show your child how long he can stay on a specific game. The words can be as simple as "First/Then"; the photos can be of familiar objects such as the specific game and then a new game or an activity to explain the sequence of activities.)
  • Story makers. Apps such as Social Stories, Kid in Story Book Maker, and Pictello let you write your own social stories to discuss how to transition from one game to another.

The Child Mind Institute contributed to this article. Learn more at

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Teen, 13 years old written by GravityMPS2

The biggest downside to a kid who won't play anything but a specific game is that they are probably addicted to it more then the average game is addicting, so they will want to play it more, trust me I know because I was addicted to Fortnite for about 8 months strait until I got bored of it, and while I was addicted to it I got more frustrated when I died, and wanted to play it all day, so when my parents made me get off I was irritable and grumpy. I would recommend finding your kid a story based interesting game game that will break there habit of that specific game because a story based game ends, and when it ends its not fun to play anymore, unlike a game like Fortnite where you can play forever again and again. Also once your done with a story game you realize that the game you've been addicted to isn't the best game in the world. Of course this is all just my experience so it might not be the same with everybody
Teen, 15 years old written by mkv2326

Generally, try to have them avoid games that have built-in mechanisms to limit play (such as a timer or a limited number of lives). This makes them more addictive.
Adult written by ghost s.

Those games don't deserve to be called games. Games are an art form, and developers put love into good games. IOS games are just a couple lines of C# that they copy-pasted from the last game, and then they change the models a little bit. Get your kid a PC and a ps4, get the last of us, some of the witcher games, and half-life.
Adult written by Samuel B.

Alright, I'm speaking for anybody who plays games here. All games are games, no matter how many lines of code they are. I mean, as long as it brings fun and is relaxing, its a game. Next, you say that they are just lines of code copy and pasted with a few model changes. That's pretty much every Mario and Call of Duty. Same thing with Sonic. I can see that you are asking the person to get a PC and spreading the master race(I do PC gaming by the way), but the person has a current issue. If this "game not deserved to be called a game" is addictive, imagine how addictive Overwatch, or Witcher will be. As for a solution to the person's actual problem, you should just make sure he doesn't rack up over 30 hours on that game. If he does, just cut the wifi off of his phone by going into your wifi's control. If the game isn't multiplayer, confiscate his charger. He won't be able to charge his phone.
Teen, 13 years old written by yeahImaBrony164

I have autism myself and I'd like to say there's a lot of variables that go into that. What game is it? Do you notice ;him/her having influence from the game? Are they less social than before? Do they lose interest in things the once enjoyed after playing it? Think about it.
Adult written by Kelly Priest

Great input, Carson3003. A kid who is prone to becoming extremely absorbed in games could probably become overly absorbed in Portal or Morrowind, but you're right that there is a different quality to these games than the iOS games. There is a story, for one thing, and it does eventually end! Thanks for adding your perspective. I'd encourage you to add your thoughts on some of the other articles in this section as well.
Teen, 13 years old written by Carson3003

Ok, I have ADHD, and am a big gamer. I play many games primarily on the PC. I am aware of a lot of the iOS apps design, and actually saw something about how it is wired to cause addiction. My solution would be to introduce them to quality games like Skyrim (Or if you are one of those people who is strict about content, Morrowind or Portal), they will find these better then the iOS games, stop playing the iOS games, but these games end and also they can gradually loose interest, and then the addiction is already gone, so just don't reintroduce the games that are wired to addict.