The Effect of the Game "MindLight" on Anxiety Symptoms of Children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Project Lead Category Project status
Lieke Wijnhoven Anxiety Data Collection

Because anxiety is an important cause of impairment for children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it is necessary that effective anxiety interventions are implemented for these children. Recently, a serious game called "MindLight" has been developed that is focused on decreasing anxiety in children. It is expected that MindLight is an effective anxiety treatment for children with an autism spectrum disorder.

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19-12-2018

In the clinical setting, a large proportion of children with ASD experience anxiety symptoms. Because anxiety is an important cause of impairment for children with an ASD, it is necessary that effective anxiety interventions are implemented for these children. Recently, a serious game called MindLight has been developed that is focused on decreasing anxiety in children. This approach is based on recent research suggesting that video games might be suitable as an intervention vehicle to enhance mental health in children (Ferguson & Olson, 2013; Granic, Lobel, & Engels, 2014). It is expected that MindLight is an effective anxiety treatment for children with an autism spectrum disorder.

First, it is known that children with ASD often feel a close affinity for technology and games, which means that the participating children are probably intrinsically motivated to play a game like MindLight in therapy (Khandaker, 2009). Moreover, it has been reported that computer based training could be an effective tool in treatment for children with ASD, due to its visual and structured character (Silver & Oaks, 2001). MindLight uses visual aids and structured sensory information to a great extent, both for creating a ‘scary’ exposure environment and for teaching important treatment concepts. Furthermore, MindLight includes frequent practice and exposure opportunities. Because MindLight can be played repeatedly, with the difficulty level increasing as children become better players, there is a great deal of practice and exposure involved in playing this game. As a result, the gap between knowledge and behavior may be substantially decreased and effective cognitive and emotional coping skills can be automatized and possibly generalized with practice. Finally, therapy skills can be practiced at home, which means that children have an easier access to mental health care. In this way, the waiting lists can become shorter and the therapy costs can be decreased when implementing a game like MindLight as therapy tool.

If MindLight turns out to be effective for anxious children with an ASD, it could be considered as a good and suitable therapeutic alternative to the already existing interventions for anxiety in  children with an ASD. MindLight could then be implemented as an evidence-based treatment for children with an ASD in mental health institutes and special education schools.

40%

ASD children with at least one comorbid anxiety disorder

80%

ASD children who like to play games

100%

ASD children who liked MindLight!

  • In this study 120 children (8-16 years) with an autism spectrum disorder and (sub)clinical anxiety symptoms old participated. Children in the experimental condition played MindLight and children in the control group played Triple Town individually for one hour per week during 6 consecutive weeks at the recruitment location. At baseline, children, parents and teachers filled in questionnaires. Moreover, parents underwent a semi-structured interview (ADIS-P) to determine whether their child met the criteria of one or more anxiety disorders. At post-intervention and at 3-months follow-up, children, parents and teachers filled in questionnaires again to evaluate the effect of MindLight. At 3-months follow-up, parents underwent the semi-structured interview again to test whether MindLight also had an effect on the present anxiety disorder(s) in the participating children.
  • Please contact us when you want to know more about this project (gemhlab.com/contact).

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Project team

Lieke Wijnhoven title=
Lieke Wijnhoven

Clinical therapist and external PhD-student at GGZ Oost Brabant and the Radboud University.

Function

PhD-Candidate

Contact

E-mail Lieke

Isabela Granic title=
Isabela Granic

Professor and Chair of the Developmental Psychopathology department in the Behavioural Science Institute; writer; voracious podcast consumer; mother of two upstanding little gamers

Function

Director of GEMH Lab

Contact

E-mail Isabela

Rutger Engels title=
Rutger Engels

Function

CEO at Trimbos Institute / Professor Developmental Psychopathology Utrecht University

Contact

E-mail Rutger

Daan Creemers title=
Daan Creemers

Function

Research Coordinator

Contact

E-mail Daan

Sources

All sources
  1. Granic, I., Lobel, A., & Engels, R. C. M. E. (2013). The Benefits of Playing Video Games. American Psychologist. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2013.0296
  2. White, S. W., Oswald, D., Ollendick, t., & Scahill, L. (2009). Anxiety in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders. Clinical Psychology Review, 29, 216-229.
  3. Van Steensel, F. J. A., Bögels, S. M., Perrin, S. (2011). Anxiety disorders in children and adolescents with autistic spectrum disorders: a meta-analysis. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 14, 302-317.

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