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Students with autism connecting, building community through Minecraft

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Posted at 10:55 AM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 11:55:26-04

CINCINNATI, Ohio — The pandemic cut off a lot of social interactions for students, but the video game Minecraft is helping bring students with autism together to build a virtual and physical community.

Caitlyn Lynch is the lead intervention specialist with the Heidt Center for Excellence, and she helped start the Minecraft Club in February after the students voted for the game. She's also an avid fan of the game and had a Minecraft-themed wedding cake.

"I wasn’t trying to make anybody biased towards that either," Lynch said. "It’s always been one of my favorite video games for years... If you think it, you can probably build it.”

Each week, dozens of students use school iPads to meet online and play together. There is a new assignment each week within the game that the club tries to accomplish.

"Not only do you get that joy, that passion, being excited to have a club that’s about one of their favorite topics, it also encourages creativity," Lynch said.

For students like Max Siekman, the club's future president, the club has helped him build a virtual escape and form real friendships.

"When I first started, it’s been making me feel happy and making me feel good, and it’s been helping me with all the stress I have," Siekman said. "We have a lot in common in Minecraft, and we like talking about a lot of the same stuff.”

Though the game has a lot of math and even chemistry in it, Lynch said the biggest payoff is watching as kids who struggle socially bond and build a community.

"Hearing them help each other kind of deal with those frustrations, that stress, like, 'Hey man, it’s cool. What can we do to help you?' I think, was really awesome to watch.”

This story was originally published by Sina Gebre-Ab at WCPO.