Neurodivergence in Table Top Gaming

Neurodivergence in Table Top Gaming

Neurodivergence is an umbrella term used to describe a difference in how people experience their brains, and includes things like Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD). For a lot of people, their neurodivergence is not just about having difficulty processing sensory information; it can also lead to difficulty understanding other people and empathising with them. This means that when we sit down at the table for a roleplaying game, our ability to understand what other people mean —and feel—can be somewhat limited. It also means that when we play with someone who lives with autism or ADHD (or both!), communication can be especially difficult.

Autism can manifest in many different ways at the table, and may appear as someone who has trouble with eye contact or who feels uncomfortable when you talk directly to them or touch them without warning (this could be anything from playfully slapping someone on the shoulder to giving them a hug). ADHD can manifest as fidgeting, difficulty focusing or remembering rules.

When we are playing tabletop roleplaying games, it's important to be compassionate towards one another. This means being considerate of others' needs, respecting their boundaries and being open about your own. When someone is having trouble processing things or interacting with others in the group, it can be helpful to ask yourself: "How can I help?" rather than "What's wrong with them?" You might try breaking down your expectations for how long it takes someone to process information into smaller chunks or how much energy they might have available for social interaction.

Something to be aware of that helps a lot of neurodivergent people is ‘stimming’. Stimming is when someone does something repetitively in order to calm themselves down or focus their attention on something else. This can include anything from tapping their fingers against their chair to rocking back and forth while sitting still. It can be a good idea to have a variety of fidget toys available while you’re playing, or to allow people to use their phones to play simple games/scroll social media while you play. For a lot of neurodivergent people having something to do with their hands can actually help them pay attention and engage better with what is happening at the table. You might also try making sure that everyone has some downtime throughout the session so they don't get overwhelmed by constant interaction with other people.

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