Sometimes, autistic people can be a bit rigid in their behaviors and averse to new experiences. My daughter, especially, who has a high level of social anxiety, has a really hard time with any type of change or new experience. My son is more open to new opportunities, but due to being more susceptible to sensory overload our options outside the home are more limited.
Regardless of the specific reasons, the result remains the same: they are less adventurous or open to starting conversations. According to this article, Pokémon GO seems to be successfully encouraging some individuals with ASD to explore the world a bit — and, just as importantly, to engage in conversation with other Pokémon fans in the process. I say individuals because we all know it’s not just kids playing this new viral sensation
On the flip side, an EMT, I’ve already witnessed some nightmare calls as a result of this game. I’ve responded to a couple of motor vehicle accidents, a pedestrian vs. auto, and an assault (mugging) – all directly related to someone playing Pokémon GO and NOT PAYING ATTENTION.
That’s why I was thrilled to discover a Pokémon GO Safety Checklist from Safe Kids DeKalb County whilst I was scrolling through my Nextdoor news feed. Here are the key takeaways from these safety tips:
Be aware of your surroundings and watch where you are going. Make sure you pay attention to where you are walking. I never advocate constantly staring down at your phone regardless. It is a great way to announce to predators that you are an easy target. Get into the habit of frequently looking up while you are on the phone. Situational awareness!!
Make sure somebody knows where you are going. Evidently the nature of Pokémon GO is that Pidgeys, Zubats and Weedles (oh my!) keep popping up on the map, a little farther away each time. That means you or your child could see another Pokémon just a little farther off and venture away into unsafe territory. Wandering is already an issue for so many autism families.
If you play at night, only walk in well-lit areas. Pokémon pop up everywhere, at all hours. It’s fine to find Pokémon in the park or on the street, but stay off other people’s property and vacant, boarded up buildings and homes. Don’t venture into sketchy areas because you are tempted by a rare Dratini sighting!
Do not drive a vehicle, ride a bicycle, or skateboard while playing. You should always hunt Pokémon on foot. It’s illegal to text and drive, so PLEASE don’t try to catch these invisible creatures while doing any of the above activities.
By the way, many of the calls we have seen have involved adults playing the game, not just kids. These tips are for everyone!
SIDE NOTE: The creator of Pokémon is autistic! My son proudly did a class presentation on Satoshi Tajiri in 2nd grade as soon as he found out they shared autism in common.
You can download the Safe Kids Dekalb County Pokémon GO Safety tips here!