By Juliano Oliveira
It is in hidden magical places, inhabited by monsters and wizards, where real-life brave warriors may seek improvement in solving daily tasks.
Dungeons & Dragons, a fantasy tabletop role-playing game, has been essential to several participants’ lives in a unique group of Autism Queensland (AQ).
Throughout the game, participants will be challenged to identify their goals and make most of the match opportunities. As in the RPG game, real-life players are additionally gaining skills.
“Definitely, [participants are learning] skills related to social communication. They have been able to work in a team environment, communicate with other people, and solve problems together,” explains Dr Caitlin Taggart, an occupational therapist at AQ.
In the campaign proposed in Dungeons & Dragons, players may encounter obstacles that will only be overcome through a team effort.
“Other people in the team giving feedback may also change their own ideas on certain things. So, for example, they might think they want to do something, but then someone else might have a different view, so it is time to negotiate and compromise”, says Dr Taggart.
“There’s just so many different moments where people can work on their personal goals. So we can be really creative and flexible within the campaign as well.”
“If somebody identifies at the beginning of a campaign that they want to be able to feel confident ordering coffee at the local coffee shop, we can embed that into the campaign. So they can practise how it would be like ordering something in everyday life.”
The idea behind the adoption of D&D as an educational platform came from David Smith, one of the game’s mentors at AQ. He reflected on his own experience as a player and realised that it would be an exceptional tool for those seeking communication goals.
During Studio G – a workshop that supports young adults on the autism spectrum in the transition to employment – Dr Taggar and Mr Smith talked about how the organisation could work with participants in soft skills related to social communication employment.
“We piloted the program at Studio G with a small group of participants, and we had massive progress with their goals. We started to think we could offer this as a program,” tells Dr Taggar.
“We got feedback from the participants on the piloted program. We asked what they would want to get as a program, and then, we developed the plan with the participants earlier this year.”
Given the social rules imposed by COVID-19, the D&D matches had to be played online. However, the transition to face-to-face was adopted after the State Government relaxed health restrictions and internal consultation with the players.
“There are different options for participants to access the program so that it might be through face-to-face, or it could be online as well. They can choose what they feel more comfortable with.”
Currently, the participants of Allies and Adventures (AaA) are part of a 4-hours-weekly-D&D group. Before the beginning of the project, there were patients not being minimally able to communicate verbally. Months later, it is possible to evidence participants running their groups outside the institution.
Through valuable donations to the program, Autism Queensland had the support from Wizards of the Coast.
For more information, visit https://autismqld.com.au/page/home.