25th Aug 2021

Image: One of the amazing structures made by the young people in Minecraft.

North East Autism Society (NEAS) used a grant from the #iwill Fund at the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland to connect with autistic young people in a truly innovative way: Minecraft. 

Minecraft is the best-selling video game of all time. It allows users to create their own virtual worlds by encouraging creativity and collaboration. For this reason, the game was identified as a perfect way to deliver learning through discovering experiences and providing a platform for young people to express themselves. 

Pete Barrett, Senior Programme Manager at the Community Foundation said: 

“This project has really pushed the boundaries allowing the young people to challenge society in an exciting and creative way. How better to bring about social change by highlighting the issues, than designing a society fit for all and safe for all. This is a truly innovative way of ensuring the voices of those least heard are given the freedom and power to show us what can be achieved.” 

The project engaged ten autistic young people aged between 10 and 16. It gave them the opportunity to explore thoughts, ideas and experiences about what they think society should know about their autism. For many, it was the first time they had ever been part of a group where all the other participants had an autism diagnosis. This served as an important experience as often young autistic people feel marginalised and socially isolated. 

Kevin Meikle, Fundraising Manager at North East Autism Society said: 

“The grant from the #iwill Fund has really paved the way for further developments in this area. Intrigued about the possibilities of building ‘therapeutic worlds’, we as an organisation are always keen to explore news ways for young people to connect and explore their feelings and identity. 

“The benefit of this type of playful environment cannot be underestimated, with outcomes for young people’s confidence, emotional wellbeing, social interaction, and learning and development abundantly clear by the end of the project. We are extremely grateful for the opportunity to use Minecraft as a tool to enhance our young people’s sense of connection and communication…a place to call their own.” 

Using Minecraft has proved to be a powerful experience, as it reduced the need for many of the factors autistic people can find fundamentally challenging. It removes the demand to communicate verbally and allows expression through more creative methods. It has also helped participants form strong bonds and provided them with a way of making their voice heard. 

The #iwill Fund was made possible thanks to £50 million joint investment from The National Lottery Community Fund and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) to support young people to access high quality social action opportunities. The Community Foundation was acting as a match funder and awarding grants on behalf of the #iwill Fund in Tyne & Wear and Northumberland.  

The #iwill fund has now closed however there are other funds available for organisations looking for funding for young people’s activities. There can be found on our website. You can also make a general application at any time: www.communityfoundation.org.uk/apply 

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