Chess and autism
Chess:
a bridge between two worlds
Introduction
Karel van Delft
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Psychologist
Chess trainer
Journalist
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www.kvdc.nl
www.schaaktalent.nl
www.chesstalent.com
www.schaken-en-autisme.nl
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[email protected]
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Talent development and autism
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Interested in development of talent.
Talent is innate possibility to develop skills.
Developed skill brings: performance, succes and fun.
Questions:
 How to develop talent.
 Which are conditions to learn and train.
 Which are conditions to perform.
Conclusions
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Chess fits autistic children and adults.
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Chess stimulates the cognitive, social and
emotional development.
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Chess brings a bridge between two
worlds.
Chess stimulates
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Cognitive development
 Thinking, reasoning
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Social development
 Contacts with others, social skills
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Emotional development
 Selfconfidence, pleasure
Why chess fits autists
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Not physical
Logical
Safe
Structured
Quiet
Needs of autistic kids
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Rest, structure, obvious rules
Safe environment
Predictable procedures
Clear, concrete communiction
Acceptation, empathy
Trix Meurs, mother of Tom
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Trix Meurs presenta su cartel
La idea mía es, que los niños con autismo (normalmente) están enfocados. El contacto con autistas es a menudo comparado con un
buzón de correo, puede entrar algo, si el buzón tiene al menos una abertura, o puede salir algo, pero no simultáneamente. Esta
última es una condición para reciprocidad, intimidad y sexualidad. Ser uno mismo y al mismo tiempo poder trasladarse a otra
persona. Junto con ese enfoque, hay oportunidades para aprender habilidades, lo que he escrito aquí. Un enfoque básicamente
puede ser cualquier cosa, ajedrez, pintura, música, horarios de los autobuses, el aeropuerto, juegos de ordenador, juguetes que
dan vueltas, el tambor de la lavadora, etc. La idea es que usted y el niño, entren en el mundo enfocado del niño con el objetivo
final de aprender, así el lenguaje y la fascinación pueden descubrirse. Dentro de esos ejercicios, el buzón de correo puede
abrirse un poco más o durante mas tiempo. El niño requiere seguridad y confianza para conectar habilidades al enfoco o el
desarrollo cognitivo. Para compartir el enfoque se necesitan dos, un conjunto, así con tiempo se puede crear un enlace, un
intercambio entre dos líneas. Y,... cada cambio es uno. Luego, en el campo de los enfoques se puede ir practicando, me refiero
por ejemplo al ajedrez, o jugando en una habitación con otras personas. Entrenarse en la casa del entrenador. Y a continuación,
expandir ... Decir hola y adiós, cuando vienen o van. Ofrecerle una bebida a su oponente después de una partida y darle las
gracias. El siguiente paso puede ser una charla, o comer en la cafetería o restaurante. Pasar la noche en otro sitio. A veces en
una casa compartida con los demás. Aceptar tanto una victoria como una pérdida. Para nosotros quizá habilidades simples, pero
para los niños con autismo, puede que cada vez sea un importante obstáculo que deben superar.
Esto requiere coraje y superación de miedos, y romper con algunas costumbres. Cada niño y joven con autismo, por supuesto
tiene un límite a lo que se le puede introducir. "Un techo en la casa" del conocimiento y el coraje. Un desafío de mucho amor
para padres y entrenadores
See the hand out for the text in which Trix Meurs explains her
poster.
As a mother of two autistic sons she knows autists focus.
Via this focus you can get contact with them.
Purpose of this lecture
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Understanding of aspects connected with chess and
autism.
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Practical ideas of how to use chess for stimulating the
development and emancipation of autistic youth.
This is a story about
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Tom
Maarten
Jaap
Caspar
Laurens
Jeroen
And many more autistic children and adults.
Understanding
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They have problems understanding the world around
them.
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People around them have difficulties to understand
them.
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Results: misunderstandings, confusion, fear and
frustrations.
What is autism?
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Autism is a congenital neurological disorder.
Symptoms are: limited social skills, a need for structure, and
problems with emotions, empathy, self-image, language, imaginative
powers and locomotion.
Autists have trouble internalizing sensory stimuli as a coherent whole.
Autists often have a limited field of interest, in which they can
specialize strongly.
To cope with the complexities of the outside world, autists seek
refuge in fixed habits and patterns.
We speak of the Spectrum of Autism Disorders.
Category classifications are: classical autism, MCDD (Multiple
Complex Development Disorder), the Asperger’s Disorder, and PDDNOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified).
Prevalence
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Approximately one in every 100 persons has an autistic
disorder.
Boys suffer from it six times more frequently than girls.
Environment
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The better their environment is geared to their needs, the
more autists will be able to develop their qualities.
How to recognize autism (1)
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Rigid behaviour, ‘strange’
Difficult normal contact
No eye contact
Very sensible for sensory stimuli
Often alone
More difficulties playing with other kids, compared with
adults
Language often different
How to recognize autism (2)
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Mood can change fast
Dealing with changing circumstances is difficult
Fear, panic attacs, depressions
Sometimes difficulties with futilities
Not predictable
Pure, friendly
Incomprehensable
Limitations youth with autistic disorder (1)
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Social skils limited: no or a few friendships
Communication, language
Non-verbal communication
Imagination
Need for structure
Emotions, empathy, fears
Self-image
Limitations youth with autistic disorder (2)
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Locomotion
Internalizing sensory stimuli
Concentration
Physical contact threatening
Limited field of interest
Changing situations
But: No autist is the same
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Different types of autism
Level of disorder
Nature – nurture
Innate character
Intelligence
Special talents
Upbringing
Social circumstances
Movie: With autism you can participate
in a chess training and tournament
‘Everything in the life
of Laurens should be
planned’, his mother
says. ‘Except for
chess. Then he likes
to investigate.’
You can influence level of performance
Create conditions:
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Talent: innate abilities can be improved.
Circumstances: good trainer, materials.
Motivation: grows by succes experiences.
Physical condition: improved by excercises.
Mental condition: created by respect, empathy.
Strong aspects of autists (1)
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Own logic, system thinker
Can concentrate well on one topic
Can work concentrated a long time
Understands well schematical representations
Has a strong visual memory
Works well by him self
Strong aspects of autists (2)
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Is polite to others
Is reliable (agreement is agreement)
Works well via plans and procedures
Can reproduce many facts
Has eye for details
Has much knowledge about certain issues
First article about chess and autism in
Magazine Dutch chess federation KNSB
Translation in English, f.e. India
Translation in Spanish, f.e. Mexico
More in Spanish, just google
Spanish translation initiative by German Chessbase
Jaap de Vries
Jaap and his Nintendo
Jaap has Asperger. Between rounds in a chess
tournament, Jaap plays games on his Nintendo. This is
precisely what does allow him to make contact with other
children, who come to him to see what game he is
playing. ‘If you share his interest, he is open for contact’,
his mother Annemieke has noticed.
Maarten Beekhuis at his chess club
Quotes Maarten
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‘I think that I like chess because I am good at it.’
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‘I’m probably more self-involved than most people, but I
like to have social contacts. My autism makes this
difficult’.’
Tom Meurs with trainer IM Merijn van Delft. At the moment
they play in the same team of Homburg Apeldoorn in the
highest Dutch chess league.
Quotes Tom
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About chess: It is a strategic game. It offers you a full
scope to apply all your understanding and your creativity.
You really have to work hard; analyze, make plans, look
deeper than your opponent.’
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‘A kid with Asperger’s who is enthusiastic can do a lot
more. Such kids should be allowed to go ahead.’
Principles of emancipation
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Everyone has limitations and disabilities.
We have to make the best of it.
If possible: together.
Speak about limitations.
Create conditions for discussion about it.
No shame.
Perspective
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Autism can not be cured
You can learn to deal with it
There is room for development of personal qualities
Autists and people around them can learn to deal with
handicaps
Important: recognize and accept limitations
Talk with autist in a normal way
Perspectives of better life quality via
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Behaviour therapy
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Psycho education
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Medical treatment
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Creating predictable circumstances
And:
 Join activities like chess to stimulate qualities
Chess is about:
combining rules and patterns
Qualifications of a trainer
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Know chess (limited level already enough)
Empathy
Didactical skills
Understanding autism
Social skills
How to develop as a trainer
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Read, talk, get experiences
Understanding, expertise, patience
Consistent attitude and procedures
Offer structure and make this clear
For example via week schedule
Personal contact
Small groups
Principles for a trainer
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Start with possibilities of autists, f.e. intelligence, eye for
detail, strong memory, possibility to focus.
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Give own responsibility where possible and help where
necessary.
Be practical
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Be practical if there arise difficulties.
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For example make agreement with autistic kid and group
you give him a ‘time out’ if he gets very angry or panics.
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Time out is not a penalty, it is a practical solution.
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Because: if somebody has a headache he also needs
some rest.
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Ask the kid why he shows this behaviour. Maybe things
can be done different next time.
How to develop skills as a trainer or coach
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You can learn how to teach, it is a skill.
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You are not aware about a problem.
You realize the problem.
You deal with problem conscious.
Skill becomes automatism.
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Tips of trainers (1)
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Small groups, individual attention
Unambigious use of language
Quiet environment
Enough time for tasks, avoid stress
Announce clearly what you will do
Immediately interfere when problems arise
Mention wrong behaviour and explain why
Tips of trainers (2)
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Useless to get angry, tell what you expect
Clear structure in lessons and programm
Don’t stop fast self study (Aspergers)
Emotional support, explain situations
Check always if the kid understands what you are saying
Watch the situation by the eyes of a autist
How can you train and improve your chess
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Play games.
Analyze games together and with a chess computer
programm like Fritz.
Tactics study via Step methods.
Study commented games (with comments in variations
and words).
You need a board, pieces. For a game also a clock.
On the internet is much gratis information.
For a lot of information about how to train, see also the
book Developing Chess Talent: www.chesstalent.com
How to train chess tactics
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Steps method (www.stappenmethode.nl)
Structured method with introduction and exercises on
each topic (circa 100)
In books, but also on dvd
Advantage: direct feedback
Advantage: self study possible
Cheap: circa fifteen euro
Step method: very structured method
With explication
And excercises (with direct feedback)
Play and analyze with programm Fritz
How and where can you train
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Self study
On a club
Via the computer and internet
With friends and family
With a qualified trainer
There are a lot of nice chess books.
You can play a game with a pupil, annotate it and
discuss it afterwards.
15 year old pupil, gets individual lessons,
says I learned:
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Persistance
Taking into account different things at the same time
Knowledge and technique of chess
More pleasure in the game
Proud because I win more often
Dealing with loosing a game
Concentration on a task
Doing research
Discussion with another about
Verbalizing matters
Self study
Caspar Hermeling (Asperger) became a youth chess coach
himself, movie at www.schaken-en-autisme.nl
Conclusions
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Chess fits autistic children and adults.
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Chess stimulates the cognitive, social and
emotional development.

Chess brings a bridge between two
worlds.