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3 Ways Video Games Helped Me as a Child With Cerebral Palsy

When I was 11, my parents finally gave into our pleading and bought my twin sister and I a PlayStation for Christmas. I soon discovered the game Final Fantasy VIII and so began my love affair with gaming! The Final Fantasy games have remained one of my favorite series to this day.

Later this year Final Fantasy XV will be released, and I can’t wait! It got me thinking about how video games influenced me while I was growing up.

Video games often get a hard rap in the media. They’re blamed for violence, increasing levels of obesity, and a plethora of other negative things.

However, video games had a number of positive influences for me, particularly as a child growing up with a disability.

Some of these positive influences were:

1. A level playing field. When I played video games, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t run or catch a ball. Admittedly there were some games that required quick reflexes which I struggled with, but they weren’t the types of games I was interested in anyway. I was on the same level as my sisters, and often I was better than them! Games like Final Fantasy were turn-based, so it was all about strategy and my cerebral palsy didn’t matter.

2. Improved use of my hands and better coordination. I have hemiplegia, so my left arm and leg are the primary parts of my body affected by cerebral palsy. When I was younger I often avoided using my left hand for things, so I ended up doing a lot of things one-handed. However, playing PlayStation one-handed wasn’t possible (for me at least) so my left hand had to actually do some work. To this day I credit video games as the reason I have much better use of my left hand. I can even move my fingers individually, sometimes!

I also think video games improved my hand eye coordination. In later years I’ve gone back and played some of the “quick reflexes” games and found them much easier to play!

3. An outlet for when I was feeling frustrated about my situation. Often I would feel frustrated or angry that I couldn’t always do the same thing as or keep up with my friends. Playing video games let me escape into another world where I wasn’t subject to the physical limitations of my cerebral palsy. I couldn’t play netball? That’s OK; I was way too busy saving the world from imminent destruction anyway.

So, mums and dads, if your little person is showing an interest in video games, don’t be too quick to write them off as “bad.” Video games can actually have some very positive effects!