Minecraft: Multimodal Implications for Relationships of Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Year: 2019

Author: Stone, Bessie

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

A case study was conducted in response to the increasing prevalence rates in children diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder and the growing engagements of primary-school students with online multiplayer games. This article describes enabling and constraining features of Minecraftfor the peer relationships of students on the autism spectrum. In this case study, Minecraft was selected as the online multiplayer game platform of focus, given its popularity among primary-school students. The study also investigates teacher perspectives of the enabling and constraining features of online multiplayer games for the peer relationships of students with autism spectrum disorder. Data were collected through video-recorded at-screen observations of three nine-year-old students with autism spectrum disorder, and through video-recorded semistructured interviews with three classroom teachers. Multimodal analysis of the data demonstrated that online gaming with Minecraft enabled platforms to engage students in adventurous, creative, collaborative, and competitive uses of virtual images and gestures with their peers and to use visual and gestural semiotic resources for helping and showing kindness to their friends. Despite these potentials, students experienced difficulties in relationships, that were displayed visually and gesturally. Notably, students tended to reject the contributions of online players, including their friends and peers. Students also dominated shared creations of virtual images while they made negative comments about the contribution of others. The findings have implications for providing opportunities and social communication resources to support peer relationships in multimodal ways and prosocial ways. A conceptual framework of multimodal support is offered to target the interest of students in online multiplayer gaming and to support the peer relationships of students in inclusive and innovative ways, and in offline and online spaces. The conceptual framework of this study draws on the notion of inclusive education such as that outlined in Article 24, General Comment Number Four of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, 2006. The framework underlines the need for a model of inclusive new literacies that highlights the potential for using online multiplayer games as inclusive resources within the classroom setting.