Tasmania, Australia – A chess club which started last year for autistic and gifted children becomes one of the largest chess club for kids in Australia.
Each year 200 of Tasmania’s best junior chess players compete against each other and test their skills. The state wide tournament is usually attended by schools but this year the 30 member Mind Moves entered the contest their best. They qualified by placing second in their regional competition. Their fourth place out of 19 teams in the state tournament has given them the opportunity to compete next month at the national championships in Melbourne.
One parent, Dawida Rose-Nel is noticing benefits at school and at home. Talking with ABC Australia news she says,
“With autistic children, they don’t understand that other people have got emotions. In this game they realise that people do. We have different opinions, there’s different approaches and they have to then make it part of their everyday life.
“A lot of autistic children don’t like to communicate, they’re quiet. These kids we see them sitting around the table making friends, they’re talking to each other and sometimes they’re not just playing chess. It’s not even about chess that they’re talking. It’s just beautiful to see, really lovely.”
The Australian chess player and tutor Alex Wohl says,
“You have to explain everything as simply as possible. You should not assume that certain knowledge is present, or that something will be understood. You have to check all the time if what you say is getting across. With many autists you can communicate really well, but it’s different than with most other people.”
In the Dutch book, “Developing Chess Talent“by Karel and IM Merijn van Delft they begin,
“Chess is a suitable sport for many children and adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. Scientific research on this subject is lacking, also on an international level. Experience indicates that chess stimulates social, emotional and cognitive development.”
However, what has been studied is that games appear to helps brain development, problem solving and creativity. Chess appears a perfect “game” for those on the spectrum, young and old. It has no physical contact, precise rules of behaviour and unlimited choices of moves.