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    Pokémon Go Opens The World of the Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other Developmental issues

    The latest craze to hit Singapore has drawn together people of all walks, ages and neurotypicalities together – you just gotta catch ‘em all!

    No prizes for guessing – Pokémon Go! In the 24 hours that it was launched in Singapore, the parks became flooded. Every other person is walking with head bowed and eyes glued to their mobile phones, almost zombified and zealous in mannerism. For parents of a special needs child, this new worldwide phenomenon needs to be understood, and may help to break down some of the social barriers that autistic children have in the real world!

    Opening Up Their World

    The world of Pokémon, already fascinating to many special needs children, especially individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), many of whom recall every bit of fascinating details right down to the minutest of them, has opened up their world in many ways. The world of real and virtual realities have met on common ground. The game, making use of the landmarks and locations in the real world, sets people on the go to catch virtual Pokémon creatures.

    One BBC report shared how Pokémon Go had persuaded an autistic teenager to wander out of his house after having refused to leave it for the last 5 years. His mother commented that Pokémon Go had given her son, with autistic spectrum disorder and was suffering from anxiety, back to her.

    The game has perhaps given some of these  individuals with impairment in social interaction a chance to engage in a meaningful way with other like-minded individuals socially. There is a common topic, a common activity.

    Dangers notwithstanding, whereby supervision is needed to keep these children within the boundaries of safety, Pokémon Go has possibly helped breach a gap in some unforeseen ways in the special-needs child’s world.

    Equipping yourself with Basic Pokémon information

    So, it is always a question of whether we join them or fight them. If your special-needs child has Pokémon as his passion, it might be wise to arm yourself with some relevant information. Where many a time one fails to engage a child in any social conversation, it suddenly opens up when I talk about the Pokémon they so love.

    Parents, to be able to engage your children, you need to know some basic information.

    There are eighteen different Types of Pokémon which include: Normal, Fighting, Flying, Poison, Ground, Rock, Bug, Ghost, Steel, Fire, Grass, Water, Electric, Psychic, Ice, Dragon, Dark and Fairy.
    Types refer to species that share the same characteristics. A team is formed of different types of Pokémon. A single Pokémon may have one or dual types.
    Pokémon Go involves the Original Generation One of 151 Pokémon. There are 84 with one type and 67 with dual types. Poison and Water types each comprises the largest proportion of the Original Generation One Pokémon, with at just over 21% each. The types that form the smallest portion would be Ghost, Dragon and Steel. There are no Dark types currently in that Original 151.

    Pokémon of the same types would have the same strengths and weaknesses in battle. Certain types would be super effective against some types but weak against others. For instance, Electric, Ice & Rock types would be super effective against Flying types, which would be effective against Grass, Fighting and Bug types. In Pokémon Go, every type can deal some damage to other types, either with Normal Damage, Extra Damage or Reduced Damage.

    Playing Pokémon Go

    In Pokémon Go, your aim is to catch as many Pokémon creatures as possible, and by catching them, you get to level up.

    When you reach a certain level, you can join one of three Teams –
    •   Instinct (yellow)
    •   Mystic (blue)
    •   Valor (red)

    Children do try to achieve better results!

    Belonging to a Team and Battling at a Gym…

    When you belong to a Team, you can engage in battles to claim ownership of Gyms, which are places where battles are held.

    Pokéstops are designated spots, such as points of interest on the actual maps, where you can collect free resources such as Pokéballs, which would actually allow you to catch Pokémon creatures. Pokéstops could be found in places such as the Zoo, the Museum, the Gardens and Parks, playgrounds, churches and temples. Examples of where Gyms might be found include MRT stations or entrances to tourist attractions.

    Eggs are another form of resources that can be picked up at Pokéstops and can be incubated in the game to hatch Pokémon, which will then add to your collection. The ease of hatching Eggs is related to the distance you actually walk as there is a limit to the speed of movement. Using private transport or public transport would not usually contribute to this distance counted towards the requirement for Egg hatching.

    Candies and Stardust can be collected whilst catching Pokémon and will allow you to power up and ‘evolve a Pokémon’ to a different species, often of a stronger variety.

    Lures are resources that can be attached by individuals playing the game (known as Pokémon trainers) to Pokéstops. These lures, which can be bought with real money, or obtained through leveling up, make Pokémon spawn around that area, and hence, would lure more players to that area. This is an important point for parents to note.

    In my clinic (SpecialKids Child Health & Development Clinic), there are many children who come and share about their favourite Pokémon. With this launch of Pokémon Go, parents have raised concerns about the game and the amount of screen time they should allow their children to have. Guidelines have changed over the years. Still, it is important that we understand what it is all about and be able to set boundaries for our children. We will discuss the impact of the game and some management guidelines in the next article.

    Written by :

    Dr Lian Wee Bin

    Paediatrics and Neonatal Specialist