Like any parent, Pamela DePalma has made sacrifices to help her son, Daniel, who has Aspergers Syndrome. She moved from Illinois to Phoenix, Arizona, seeking better services. It was there that she met Rhonda Whitaker, a child development specialist who worked with Daniel. She created a game, using Monopoly pieces, designed to teach social skills to older children with autism. DePalma says,
“I was excited about it because there’s not a lot of games for older kids with autism. As kids get older, the resources start to fall away.”
When Daniel’s social skills improved with the game, DePalma and Whitaker decided to create their own game, based on Whitaker’s creation. Together, they formed the company The Developmental Garden, and began selling the board game “Give Me Five,” along with an iTunes app based on the game.
The board game contains 240 cards in 8 different categories. Players take turns listening to a scenario, determining what the characters are feeling, and role-playing various situations. The game is non-competitive, and even children who are not on the autism spectrum enjoy it. Daniel’s seven year-old sister, Amy, says,
“To be honest, I’m actually learning things from these cards.”
The app includes videos of social situations, which are incorporated into a game. It can be played solo, which gives children on the spectrum an opportunity to practice without the pressure of needing to interact. Whitaker says,
“A lot of kids who struggle with social skills are attracted to gaming. At the same time, they’re learning social skills.”
She recalls how one boy’s social skills improved through using the app.
“By the fourth time (of using the app), he was generalizing information that he learned, not just memorizing. It was super cool.”
Specifically, the boy learned to tell his mother or grandmother when he felt sick, instead of telling strangers or other children. He learned to find the appropriate person who could help him in that situation.
So far, The Developmental Garden has sold approximately 50 units of the “Give me Five” board game, and 80 apps. De Palma’s goal is to get the board game into as many schools as possible. So far, one school in the Chicago area and two in Arizona have purchased the game.
While the game and the app are a huge achievement, they are only a start for the new company. DePalma and Whitaker are committed to providing parents and teachers with as many resources and tools as they can to help every child learn and grow. The company’s mission statement is,
“To provide resource tools to parents and professionals which nurture developmental prosperity through love, respect, and understanding of children.”
Shanna Stoller, SLPA, says,
“Give me 5: What a wonderful social game for all ages! It targets most social-language concepts all in one interactive board game. Role-playing, non-verbal language, self-presentation, and much more! Finally. . . a well-rounded social language tool for teachers and therapists.”
For more information about the “Give me Five” game and apps, visit The Developmental Garden’s website at www.thedevelopmentalgarden.com.