It can be hard for a kid to find a place that’s bully-free. For children with autism spectrum disorder, social interaction can be challenging enough -- let alone with faceless bullies hanging around online. That’s why one father is making sure there is a safe space for kids with autism and their families to play. It’s called Autcraft -- a server for the incredibly popular game Minecraft.
Stuart “AutismFather” Duncan quit his job as a web developer and runs the server full-time. At first, he saw the many posts on social media about how the game benefits children with autism. Diagnosed with autism as an adult, Duncan was familiar with the struggles kids on the spectrum face, and launched Autcraft as a place where they could learn, have fun, and be themselves. Autcraft isn’t all that different from other Minecraft servers except that it promises a sanctuary of positivity and support.
He told PC Gamer, "When you first join in there will be 30 people who welcome you and offer to give you a tour. They'll show up and start giving you stuff. You'll see in chat ‘hey mom, come build this with me.' Somebody will say ‘I'm such an idiot' and everyone will say ‘don't say that, you're not an idiot.' It's because all these kids have been bullied everywhere they go. They all know what each other feels like. So when they're there they're so positive and so supportive."
The way Duncan achieves this refuge s through a strict vetting process of its members that he personally oversees. And for good reason. Duncan says there are forums filled with bully trolls who try to break in and target Autcraft so they can “watch autistic kids cry.”
Duncan’s vigilance has paid off, and Autcraft has over 8,000 members spanning 140 countries. Members play for free, and instead donate money so that Duncan can keep the server up and the trolls out.
Although social interaction can be a constant challenge for those with autism spectrum disorder, teachers around the world have reported Minecraft improving their communication and relationships with others along with teaching important problem solving, planning, and organization skills. Most importantly they’re having fun and making friends.
Watch the video to see how Autcraft is making a difference for thousands.