UK gaming center designed with autism in mind

By  | 

BRISTOL, England (WCAX) The fun and loud atmosphere of an arcade can make it seem like the perfect place for young kids and teens to hang out. But for children with autism, that sensory overload can make for an unsettling experience. A new initiative in Britain aims to make gaming enjoyable for everyone.

For Michelle Rebello-Tindall, a trip to the arcade is not a common outing. She has three kids with autism. "As an autism family we understand the world can be a really overwhelming place," she said.

But she's brought Emily, James and 17-year-old Lauren to this gaming store in southwest England for a different arcade experience. There is no loud music, lighting is softer, and gamers can bring their own headphones -- adjustments to help people with autism.

It's kind of hard to get my siblings out the door. They do kinda struggle being outside. They're higher on the spectrum than I am," Lauren said.

Rebello-Tindall works for an autism awareness group called Dimensions that has teamed up with Belong Gaming Arenas to provide a more inclusive space.

Reporter Rylee Carlson: Why is this a good fit for the people that come here?
Michelle Rebello-Tindall: It's a good opportunity for them to try something new they wouldn't necessarily get to try in any situation, but it's in a place where they're happy and it's secure for them.

Lauren says it makes her feel included and gives her a sense of independence. "I kinda feel like my own person. I can be on my own screen playing my own game and no one's really gonna say anything, or I could bring a group of friends.

The unique space is unlocking a new world for a whole new audience.

The autism-friendly arcades are being tested in two gaming stores in England. Advocates hope to eventually roll out the program across the UK.