More than a game: Pokemon Go helping boy on autism spectrum

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ENOLA, Pa. (WHTM) – A popular app is helping people find freedom.

“The next day he called me and he’s like, ‘You’re not going to believe this: I’m outside walking around, catching Pokemon,’” Tammy Strayer remembered. Her son Trevor had just downloaded Pokemon GO.

Some find the hit app annoying or pointless, but for some families, it’s helping change lives.

Ask players at Adams-Ricci Park in Enola and you’ll hear a lot of reasons people use hunt Pokemon.

“It gets him off the couch and gets him exercising,” one mom said.

“You just meet new people that you would never meet,” a user told us.

“I just like this game,” a 7-year-old said, “period.”

Eighteen-year-old Trevor Strayer likes it, too.

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“It’s always a little fun to explore a little bit,” he said Wednesday while walking around his neighborhood.

Three weeks ago, Trevor might have been inside on a day like this.

“Probably I would be still at home,” he said, “and be like a random person, stay home and play video games, pretty much what kids will do.”

Trevor more than most; he’s considered high-functioning on the autism spectrum.

“Just to hear that he was up, out of the basement, and outside walking around was really exciting,” his mom, Tammy, said.

She said since Trevor downloaded the app when it first came out, he’s exploring more, communicating more, and calling up friends to hang out.

“This is something that’s self-motivated him to get out and really do something on his own,” she said.

Other families with kids on the spectrum are finding the same: that Pokemon GO is providing an outlet.

Mechanicsburg mom Kathy O’Connor said it’s a good way to get her son Matthew outside. Matthew, 14, was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and has been playing the game since it was released.

He’s “much more active,” O’Connor said, choosing the app over other, stationary video games. The app also focuses on goal-driven behaviors, delayed gratification, and keeping calm while stressed.

With millions of downloads in a matter of days, expect people like Trevor and Matthew to keep finding uses for it.

“It’s a good thing too, to like have fun and catch ’em all. Gotta catch ’em all, that’s what Ash Ketchum always says,” Trevor said with a laugh.


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