Online Bingo – the game of choice for Autism

Bingo halls that were associated with the older demographics, is now finding new meaning with those on the Autism Spectrum through online bingo.

Brett messages to the chat group – “GL” (Good Luck) – as he waits for the start of a new round of online bingo. He get’s up off his chair, makes himself a cup of coffee then returns to the online action. Bingo is a game that he plays often online, it helps keeps his mind active but most importantly he can comfortably interact with relative safety with other Players in the chat group. For Brett, real world social interaction is a lot more difficult than online.

Unbeknownst to other players in the online bingo chat group , Brett is autistic. Autism is a mental disability that is diagnosed with three key elements: repetitive behavior, a heightened sensitivity and an inability for social interaction. What falls into these elements can be quite broad and therefore autism is described as a spectrum. Everyone is different and so too are those who are on the spectrum. But it is the third indicator of a lack of social awareness that is most prevalent among autism and most difficult to overcome.

The stereotypical imagery of autism generally brings to mind Dustin Hoffman in the movie “Rain Man”. Hoffman’s protagonist is an autistic math’s savant – brilliant with numbers but extremely sensitive to sound with a severe inability to communicate with others. Not everyone on the spectrum is savant, but most would have difficulty with social interaction. This is where online bingo becomes the perfect game to play for many on the spectrum.

The new game has begun and Brett watches the numbers being drawn and daubs his numbers manually. Although automatic daubing is available online he prefers to manually daub to keep his mind “active”. As he plays he types messages to the chat group with emoticons. He is very comfortable in this environment, much more comfortable than what would transpire in a traditional bingo hall.

The majority of those on the spectrum are visually strong, one facet of online bingo that lends itself suitable to autistic players. Imagery and written words reduces ambiguity and misinterpretation.

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Autism Bingo Key Points

  • Online bingo is highly visual
  • Less misinterpretation for those on the spectrum
  • Sensitivities can be avoided
  • Easy coaching and mentoring by guardians

“I enjoy playing online bingo. I can play in the surroundings that I like that doesn’t trigger my sensitivities and therefore I can interact with others easily. I find in a bingo hall, the noise makes me cringe like the sound of scratching nails on a blackboard and talking to others is very difficult because I am very aware I talk with a monotone. And more often than not, I respond in ways which could be unintentionally offensive or irrelevant. Online bingo is definitely my favorite game, because it allows me the personal time and space I need to think about how to socially interact appropriately.”

It was not long ago, that the famed US bingo halls were slowly shutting up shop. Interest was waning, existing members were leaving with no new members joining. Brett’s mother, Janet, used to be a regular player in the bingo halls but left shortly after giving birth to Brett.

“I loved playing bingo at the bingo halls, but after having Brett, I just didn’t have the time. I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with friends and family, playing the numbers and winning the occasional prize.”

But in the past few years there has been a revival. Young women have begun to take interest and the LBGT community are using bingo events as their trademark for social gatherings.

Online Bingo vs Traditional Bingo Halls

What has been most surprising is the growing number of autistic players playing online bingo. Online bingo is safe, convenient and above all utilizes the fun factor of social media interaction as part of its gaming. These traits is what makes Brett love online bingo.

Janet recalls her first attempt to bring Brett to a traditional bingo hall. “After Brett had grown up and into high school, I thought bingo would be a great game for him to try. He is good at numbers and bingo doesn’t require too much social interaction. But on the first day we tried, it was just a plain horrible. I mistakenly chose a bingo hall that didn’t separate the smokers from non smokers completely, and the smoke caused a lot of discomfort for Brett. In addition, the bingo hall had slot machines on the side. The flashing lights and sounds was irritating Brett, so we left after about 5 minutes. This experience, sort of left both Brett and I traumatized. We postponed trying a different bingo hall indefinitely.

It wasn’t until a friend suggested online bingo, who explained the differences and the potential benefits. After consideration, we thought that we would then gave online a try.”

Brett was careful and cautious at first. But it wasn’t long till he got the hang of it, and could converse with others. Janet was also easily able to coach him and guide him through the social nuances of playing online.

“I have many friends online, all playing bingo with me. Some do know that I am on the spectrum, but many are unaware, and I tend to prefer to keep it like that. Online, I’m no different to anyone else in the chat group. I can communicate without any difficulty, and if I do find I need a break (time out), I can easily stop and relax.”

With a blend of social media attributes, mental number awareness, online bingo is booming in popularity for everyone everywhere. Not only limited to the general public, it’s a great game for those who aren’t as adept with face to face social interaction such as those on the autism spectrum.

About

Brett was diagnosed with autism when he was three. The importance of early diagnosis allows for early intervention that entails speech, occupational and other forms of therapy. Brett is extremely visual and strong with numbers. Bingo, as a form of game play, is one game that Brett excels in and allows him to interact with others. Both traditional and online bingo allows Brett to utilize his strengths as well as to provide a safe environment to work on his weaknesses.

 

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