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Sun Jun 2, 2019, 06:01 AM

How Dungeons & Dragons Can Help Kids Develop Social-Emotional Learning Skills

For many of the kids who arrive at LiHigh School in Vermont, it’s their last chance at school. They have serious behavioral challenges that are difficult to address in traditional settings. LiHigh is a democratic school and emphasizes a therapeutic approach to student learning. It also uses a variety of personal learning strategies to develop curriculum around the students’ passions and interests, including the tabletop role-playing game (RPG), Dungeons & Dragons. A few years ago one of Kyle Callahan’s students with autism asked if the game could be played in class, and it has since become a cornerstone of the school’s program.

“Without a doubt, D&D has been one of the most successful classes we’ve offered at LiHigh School," said Callahan. "Students love it; staff love it; and it genuinely helps the students achieve their social-emotional goals.”

Join the Party

Dungeons & Dragons is a fundamentally social experience. A team of adventurers, known as a party, are immersed in a pseudo-medieval world of sword-and-sorcery run by the Dungeon Master (“DM” for short), who narrates setting and events and adapts the emerging game to the players’ free actions and decisions. The world of the game is orally constructed and conjured in the imagination with the help of rule books, reference guides, charts, multifaceted dice and maps.

Rather than compete, players work together to coordinate their complementary skill sets to problem-solve and overcome diverse challenges. Their co-dependence translates into a sense of belonging and genuine social cohesion.


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