Hey fellow Redditors! My name's Shaun and I founded the world's first game-based educational therapy programme — Swords & Stationery (S&S). We provide intervention for kids and teens with learning challenges (e.g. dyslexia) through a unique curriculum that directly incorporates tabletop games (such as RPGs like Savage Worlds and miniature wargames like Warhammer 40K)

After graduating with a Bachelor's degree in Economics in 2012, I joined an NGO as an educational therapist in 2013 (a move that no one could have predicted). During my next four years as a therapist, I started to incorporate tabletop games into my therapy sessions. When I saw the change that these games could effect on the kids, I knew I had to take things one step further.

Thus, I founded Swords & Stationery in 2017. The first two years were rocky, and I mean REALLY rocky. At the beginning of 2018, I only had $0.75 left in the company's bank account. Fortunately, a very lucky and risky gamble paid off, and since then we've managed to not just stay afloat, but also build a near-perfect track record.

So, if any of you have any questions on my journey as an entrepreneur or how I have managed to convince my clients that games are good for their kids, feel free to ask away :D

Photo proof: https://swordsandstationery.com/wp-content/uploads/IAMA.jpg

Comments: 229 • Responses: 75  • Date: 

Ozzy0313135 karma

What age groups do you feel benefit the most? Also, are there any learning challenges that don’t seem to go well with this form of therapy.

I think you’re doing a great thing here.

LYHH153 karma

Thanks for the kind words! I've taught kids as young as 7 and as old as 18, but as a general rule, I'd say those 9 and above benefit the most. That's when they are able to tap on their ability to create mental imagery—a crucial skill needed not just for RPGs, but for writing too.

On the second question, I've definitely had kids who didn't enjoy the programme (or certain parts of it like RPGs). Typically, they didn't get as much fun out of fantasy, make-believe settings as their peers did, or putting them in dangerous situations in-game made them feel anxious. In such cases, I would either tweak the story to make it less threatening or switch to wargaming to get that "narrative" fix.

Ozzy031351 karma

Thank you. My 5 year old ha ADHD and has very strong creative tendencies and problem solving skills. I’ve been wanting to introduce him to tabletop gaming to help him focus and bring everything together. Are there any games you think a 5 year old would dig, or just wait it out?

LYHH83 karma

I would go with Risus first. You can get your boy to do some writing with Risus (e.g. writing simple phrases to represent his cliches), then use it as a form of bedtime storytelling. Later on, Hero Kids is a great choice until they reach 9 or 10.

Ozzy031320 karma

Thank you!

LYHH18 karma

Happy to share! :)

cking14515 karma

my dude, keep doing what you're doing. I hope your post gets many more upvotes

LYHH11 karma

Thank you! :)

Neniaite76 karma

How does one do “educational therapy” with a Bachelor’s degree in Economics?

What does a typical therapy session look like?

Are you licensed through state boards?

LYHH58 karma

After I left my first job, I joined the Dyslexia Association of Singapore as a trainee educational therapist and was simultaneously trained in the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method by the DAS Academy. Got my specialist diploma afterwards while going through on-job training (so I juggled two to three classes while going for my dip). We don't need a license/registration like OTs and psychologists do, though we have something called the Register of Educational Therapists in Asia. I'm not licensed through state boards in that sense, but fully qualified.

Since I do the OG method, a typical therapy session for dyslexics will include teaching a couple of new reading/spelling concepts or phonograms, a revision component to revise past concepts (this will include flash cards, reading, recalling sounds, and spelling), and afterwards some activities related to exam skills. However, over the years, I've learned that the kids don't always absorb when things get too overwhelming. Hence, I tend to swap out certain components in favour of ones that may engage them better for that session (for example, skipping reading and exam skills and just working on vocabulary based on a previous RPG session, or even just doing an RPG session for the entirety).

Neniaite9 karma

Thank you for responding!

LYHH9 karma

Happy to share! Those were very good questions!

davidjschloss20 karma

Fun fact in the US: many states allow you to call yourself a therapist without a degree of any kind. You just can’t hold yourself out to be any kind of therapist that requires a degree-licensed clinical social worker, psychiatrist or psychologist, etc. anything the state controls the licensing for you can’t say unless you have that license. My wife, for example, is an LCSW- licensed clinical social worker. So she can do clinical work, she’s registered with the state, etc. She could call herself a couples therapist or a play therapist or an art therapist but she can’t call herself a psychologist or anything that requires licensure.

We knew a couple that started doing Imago Relationship Therapy and not only had no training but weren’t in any way suited to be doing relationship therapy. They hated each other, were in the process of getting a divorce and barely talked. But they’d meet clients in an office and walk them through childhood trauma to reawaken their “aliveness.”

I have another friend that does art therapy with an English degree and she really helps kids with issues expressing themselves and interacting.

Not saying OP is a quack. Just saying in many places going from a degree in one thing to therapy has surprisingly little hurdles.

LYHH6 karma

For sure!

tartufu28 karma

What would you have done differently if you could go back in time to do SnS from scratch?

LYHH47 karma

I'd have managed my finances better. I knew nothing about setting up a business except that I needed to set aside a pool of money, and it turns out that that pool should have been bigger. That being said, I don't regret any of it. It was a great but humbling learning experience.

Chubuwee21 karma

Hi this is amazing to me and the type of much needed creativity we need in teaching the kids!

I am a behavioral therapist for children with developmental disabilities.

What other professionals do you coordinate with or would you want to coordinate with. I am sure other occupations can use similar strategies such as speech and language therapists, occupational therapists, etc.

To go along with that, who do you consult with to make sure you are being effective? Like is data taken?

Thank you for all you do.

LYHH15 karma

Thank you for the kind words and always glad to talk to a fellow therapist!

At present, I work with a speech therapist, an occupational therapist, and several freelance educational therapists (including one that teaches Mandarin). We learn from one another. For instance, speech pathology isn't my forte as I'm not trained to aid students with their speech issues. In such cases I'll work closely with my associate speech therapist to see how she helps the child, then I'll develop lesson plans based off what she's doing so we can synergise. Conversely, if she needs help with getting the student to blend words or acquire vocabulary, I'll let her know what I'm doing so she can complement.

I'm also working with an external consultant who goes to schools to train teachers. We meet up once in a while to discuss reading comprehension texts and to see if I'm still on the right track.

I used to take data back in 2017 but these days it's been overwhelming, so I keep track via the kids' exam results and close communication with their parents. I also get them to pass me their exam scripts if possible so that I can see how much of what they have learned at S&S was applied during the test itself.

epictroll517 karma

Hey! I am doing the same thing, although less professionally with kids with autism. Any tips and tricks? We're still starting it up ATM!

LYHH17 karma

I would say have a very clear objective in mind on what you want to achieve with the kids and have a co-GM at the ready if possible. I usually bring in a teaching assistant as a player so that he can help guide the kids along. The learning objective is king!

I also like to keep my group sizes to 3 or fewer, depending on the profiles of the kids. This way, they can all get the spotlight.

One other thing you may want to consider too is to keep sessions to 2 hours or under for kids with shorter attention spans. For my 7-8 year-olds, our Hero Kids sessions typically run for 45 minutes.

THX2001HAL15 karma

What was your favourite RPG moment?

LYHH59 karma

When I finished a Savage Worlds campaign with a class of 3, and the ending was nothing short of epic (they'd stopped an elder god from consuming the entire world). Everyone was all smiles that day. That campaign took us close to 2 years to complete.

KittyKate1077814 karma

hi as an adult who didnt fully understand her diagnosis til recently (thanks parents who didnt want me to be ostracized so instead taught me how to mask until it became natural), i have some questions.

i checked out your website and i still dont fully understand whats going on, sorry, please explain a little bit more.

also do you have any tips for how to function in college especially with online covid learning? cause at this point im giving up college until online covid learning goes away due to not being able to be functional in that type of learning environment. thank you

LYHH9 karma

In a nutshell, what we do is to help kids pick up basic literacy, then move on to harder stuff like exam skills and morphology. In the learning process, games are directly incorporated into the curriculum.

With distance-learning, I think it's very much dependent on what your style is. What issues are you experiencing specifically?

KittyKate107784 karma

I decided not to do college this semester after the mid semester switch last semester due to covid failed, because I have problems with being able to get myself into what I call "school mode" when I'm at home. idk a better way to put it. I know I need to do the work but it's easier for my brain to get started in an environment it knows and associates with work and school. Idk how to better explain it if you need more clarity let me know thank you

LYHH9 karma

I know what you mean by "school mode", and it's not always easy to get into that. I used to have that problem too (personally, I meet most of the criteria for ADHD). Sometimes it helps to just take a step back and mentally prep yourself by trying to suss out what the blockades are. Know that it may take a while before you get to a point where you can completely immerse yourself into that "mode", but it is doable. Most importantly, don't beat yourself up over it :)

KittyKate107783 karma

Thank you so much for the advice, I have an idea of the blockades but am having a hard time putting them into words (I'm autistic with a history of adhd but it is not on my current chart so idk whats actually going on). Also I really appreciate the don't beat yourself up about it thing because I have the tendency to be so perfectionistic that anything less than perfect is failure to my brain and I like seeing that reminder because sometimes I can't stop my brain but someone else can if that makes sense.

LYHH5 karma

Yep I know how that feels like. Just know that you're not alone. There are a lot of platforms where you can talk to people, if you ever need to.

8Bells12 karma

Do you program to help kids achieve results for school or more quality of life stuff? (Or both?!)

LYHH9 karma

Yep to both!

On academic results, at the end of the day, because we live in a meritocratic society, these still have some weight to them. However, I target more their progress, whether or not they've at least maintained consistency.

On the quality of life stuff (assuming we're talking about character traits like discipline and resilience), this is also extremely important as a child with a positive attitude will usually progress well. In turn, this often helps them to do better academically, and so there's this upward spiral in their progress that's holistic.

Rentality9 karma

Hey I was considering making a D&D club at my school and was trying to think of ways to really simplify the D&D ruleset for children 8-11. What advice would you give? I just feel the sheer volume of reading inherent in D&D would mean we get nothing done as we’d only have an hour for our sessions.

LYHH7 karma

As others have suggested, give Hero Kids a try. If you must go with a d20 system, I found Dagger for Kids to be a good alternative (but limiting for kids with active imaginations). Risus is also good fun!

flyingjesuit7 karma

Any advice for teachers who have 0% experience with RPGs or Tabletop Games on how to become familiar with these games and incorporate them into the classroom? Do you think there are benefits for students who don't have Learning Differences?

LYHH3 karma

There are a few ways to familiarise one with the genre. There is this short film called The Gamers which does a good job of introduction what goes on during a typical RPG session. This short snippet with Vin Diesel and the Critical Role crew is also fun to watch. Afterwards, you'll want to have a look at the rulebooks of some of the easier RPGs like Risus and Hero Kids.

Students without learning difficulties can benefit from tabletop games too. As an example, one thing I really like about RPGs is that it promotes both lateral and critical thinking when the story is well-told and the combat sequences are dynamic. Ultimately though, it comes down to the learning objective(s). If it can be met through the use of a game (which is a medium), then the latter certainly can be useful whether for SpLD or neurotypical students. :)

timlwhite6 karma

What is it that you see therapeutically happening when using RPGs that wasn’t happening before you started using them?

LYHH10 karma

Passion for reading and/or writing. Back when I was still in my former company, I had a class of boys who loved video games. They were very hardworking too and had positive attitudes, but essay writing was just a very "meh" thing for them. I decided to try Dread with them as their first RPG because it was easy enough to pick up.

After our Dread session, I used the fiction and Jenga tower as metaphors for the Story Mountain. I went through a couple more writing techniques with them, then got them to write an action story while applying what they'd learned. They were more engaged than previous attempts and even threw in words that I'd used during the Dread session.

Later on, I did 13th Age with another class. Our campaign never ended (very sadly, as it was going so well), but one of the girls did pick up writing as a hobby. She started penning down anecdotes in a little notebook of hers and did collaborative writing with other classmates in school. That was really cool!

Besides instilling a passion for writing, there are other things I can do with RPGs that I previously wasn't able to. There were times I had to use fiction from RPG sessions as an analogue to help students see things from a certain perspective, for instance. I've also managed to get students interested in reading comprehension by incorporating texts into our RPG sessions, like when the kids had to go through the Book of Witches to find out more about the Witches' Coven. It's a pretty good feeling when a student says, "Can you print this story out for me so I can read it at home?"

schlemmla6 karma

Cool! I've always thought this would be an awesome idea. The kids don't have to call the instructors the title "Teacher Shaun", as it says on your site, do they?

Do you have financial assistance or low income price reduction options?

Would you be able to advise on franchising for other places?

If you want to grow larger (ie hire more teachers, improve equipment, etc.), would you ever open your business to investors?

LYHH6 karma

Oh yes they do have to call me "Teacher Shaun". Mandatory. All part of instilling discipline and respect in them. They're used to calling their teachers "'cher" but here at S&S, it has to be "Teacher Shaun" (the rationale is that I always call them by their names, so I expect the same in return). And I find that that creates a better relationship for everyone too.

I generally don't have any financial assistance schemes as I find that devalues my work; each lesson plan and its materials can take as long as 4 hours to prep. That being said, I have made exceptions before, but it's really on a case-by-case basis.

I can't advise on franchising, unfortunately! I wouldn't do it though. I take too much pride in my work to want to trust a franchisee with it. Not saying that they won't be able to do as good a job, but it's always more about quality over quantity for me. Investors would be welcome though!

triggerheart6 karma

Is there any research backing up your practices and methods?

LYHH4 karma

Yes and no. The OG method from which my approach stems is research-backed, and in recent years, there has been more literature discussing the positive benefits of tabletop games, especially RPGs (which was why I left my previous company and started S&S, so I could integrate the two). However, as a combination of everything I've been doing, not yet. It's certainly something in the pipeline though!

FreefallGeek6 karma

I've got a fourteen year old with autism. He's verbal, high functioning, but the attention span of a drunken hummingbird. I've been kicking around the idea of starting a family campaign for he and his younger sister. Any suggestions on keeping the the attention of the ADHD kiddos?

LYHH4 karma

It varies from child to child, but what you can try is to first talk to him about the concept of RPGs and see if he's willing to dip his toes into it. If he is willing to give it a try, then you will have won half the battle. Afterwards, it's just a matter of tweaking the session, keeping length and pacing in mind. Also, having a solid Session 0 is key to establishing expectations.

Thundergun30005 karma

Ugh ur a sweetie ❤ my brother has serious adhd but loves video games and seeing him try to fit into the school system was painful. I love what you are doing and I am studying to go into education. In the future Id love to create programs for autistic n special needs kids including adhd and I would love to incorporate different methods of learning like this. Is there a way I can contact you in the future?

LYHH1 karma

Yes for sure! It's always a pleasure to meet fellow educators and therapists, and I think it's wonderful that you're planning to branch out into this pathway to help these groups of kids. Cheers :)

LoveLongLost4 karma

Do you have any tips for someone who wants to advocate for Tabletop games / gamified lessons in a corporation? I am not in the L&D department, but they are open to hearing me out about this, but there is a strong conception that a game like D&D is mainly for teambuilding because it's "fun". How do you quantify progress on a learning front, and what skills can this way of teaching teach best according to you?

LYHH3 karma

It depends on what the learning objective is. Examples include confidence-building, team-building, vocabulary acquisition, etc. Because a lot of games simulate or emulate a certain aspect of the real world, there is a large list of skills that can be taught. It also depends on how it's executed and whether or not the explanation can be passed down in such a way that the receiver can internalise and transmute into the intended learning value.

So, let's say with my kids, as I contact their parents once every few weeks to update them, each will inform me of their child's progress too. Generally, if they do well in school — academically and socially — that's good enough. I also have their worksheets stored in their individual files to keep track of how far they've come.

CourageKitten4 karma

I have ADHD, where were you when I was in school?

LYHH1 karma

I was struggling with my personal demons too :'(

Bunytou4 karma

Is there any gamification that we could easily use to imrpove productivity at home, both as adults and for our kids?

LYHH4 karma

There are certainly solutions. I came across these two apps that gamify daily tasks but haven't tried them. Worth a look!

Do It Now

Epic to-do list

kennedar_19844 karma

Is this a program that is designed to work with other dyslexia programs that kids may be accessing at school/tutoring or to replace those programs?

LYHH2 karma

Our approach certainly complements what the kids learn at school. I'm not sure how well it does so with other dyslexia programmes though!

Sephy7654 karma

What do you find is the most popular class of character (bard, cleric, etc...) students seem to roll?

LYHH1 karma

Heh Savage Worlds is our current staple so it's classless, but builds with spellcaster and fighter archetypes tend to be the most popular.

stegg883 karma

I'm a teacher in Thailand and a huge fan of tabletops and rpg. Do you have any lesson plans or examples you could share?

I think there absolutely could be applications even for students without learning difficulties. Hell, I learned probability so I knew the odds on winning a fight in Warhammer back in the day. I'd love to see how you implemented it. Good work my friend.

LYHH2 karma

Hey, thanks for the kind words! An example lesson plan would be something like this:

  • Objective - oracy
  • Activities - RPG session (with more focus on the narrative)
  • Additional notes - Might want to incorporate elements of colloquial vs formal speech

Of course there is more that goes into each LP, but that's generally how it's structured. I also use Scrivener to plan out my RPG scenarios so that I don't lose track of who's who and what's what. I once ran 10 RPG sessions in a week. Not fun at all lol.

stegg882 karma

Ah the good old "speaking to the tavern ruffians" vs "speaking to the King" to teach the difference in speaking styles.

Thanks for this.

LYHH2 karma

Most welcome!

BowsettesBottomBitch3 karma

Got anything for adults have gone untreated their whole lives?

LYHH2 karma

Would that be for ADHD?

BowsettesBottomBitch1 karma

Yeah. Got diagnosed a few years ago, given a couple different antidepressants that didn't help, and then had a long series of APRNs that decided to just ignore the diagnosis because they didn't believe in it.

LYHH2 karma

I'm sorry to hear that. Joining a local gaming community or group may be a good way to dive into the hobby, and you may even find a closer listening ear should you need one. I find that miniature painting helps to take my mind off worrisome matters too. Hope things pick up for you!

bigbossodin2 karma

Serious question: do you think this type of therapy could be translated somehow to DBT?

I'm in a DBT group and individual therapy, but I'm having a really hard time just remembering the skills I'm supposed to for all sorts of things. I have ADHD too, so, you know, wonderful combination.

LYHH2 karma

Hm, to be honest, I've only a passing familiarity with DBT so I can't say for certain. Nevertheless, tabletop gaming is a wonderfully broad hobby so there's no harm in exploring it to see if it helps you build up certain skills!

plaidfox1 karma

I'm a mental health therapist who uses D&D in session, and yes, I'd have to say that it can be compatible. You just have to be intentional about using the skills and having a GM therapist who is also aware, so they can give you the opportunities to practice the skills in-game.

LYHH1 karma

That's great! Thanks for sharing :)

atorin32 karma

I work with adults with developmental disabilities. Do you think your approach could help people with more significant disabilities?

LYHH1 karma

That depends on which areas are affected. To date, the most severe cases I've had are kids that have dyslexia with ASD and ADHD as co-morbidities. But for sure, there will be groups that the S&S approach won't be able to help :(

Prof-Tina-The-Turtle2 karma

As a teacher who has lots of kids with all sorts of learning challenges this sounds amazing! How did you start your company? What were the first steps towards creating your business and did you have someone helping you or was it completely by yourself?

LYHH2 karma

I worked with an NGO back in 2013 all the way till 2017, where we used the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method to help learners with dyslexia. I wanted to instill in the kids the same passion that I have for reading and writing, so I decided to try tabletop games with them. My initial worry was that they wouldn't take to it, but almost universally the kids loved such games. Thus, I decided to meld the OG method with games, and the rest is history.

Initially, setting up the business was me stumbling about blindly. I was experimenting with a lot of things that were out of my league at the time: web design, SEO, etc. I was also spending a lot (e.g. rental of classrooms) while taking in very little. Student numbers would suddenly drop, I didn't have a place of my own so I had to lug 2-3kg worth of resources around, and the list went on. Luckily, I had the support of some very close friends and family members. I still did most of the legwork, but I was very blessed to have people that I could count on and who always looked out for me.

OmnidirectionalBeing2 karma

Hi Shaun. As a life long ADHD person, I appreciate you working with people like me and bringing more light to the condition.

Would your game also work with adults?

LYHH2 karma

Yes for sure! :)

joeydeath5382 karma

Hi, Shaun. Crazy question, but...What about tabletop wargaming titles? I'm a huge Warhammer 40,000 nut. So this kinda came to me on a whim.

Dr_Momentism1 karma

He mentions Warhammer 40,000 right in the description at the top of the post, so I get the feeling he's thought about it, and probably uses it.

LYHH1 karma

I do mostly indie skirmish wargames though! At present we're playing Brutality and Star Breach. Great fun and you can use any miniatures!

iDrinkThings2 karma

What you do is super awesome! I’m thinking of going into UX design (user experience), and I’d like to work with vulnerable populations such as the wonderful kids you work with. I have a few questions:

Did you work with UX designers for these games? Would you say they played a large role in this work?

Do you have advice for me to get my foot into the door?

Did you need any sort of specialized license/certification to create these games for kids with learning difficulties? Are there policies in place for these types of things?

LYHH1 karma

Hey, thanks for the kind words! I don't work with UX designers as over the years, I've learned to design my own worksheets and materials. It helped that I had wonderful mentors when I first started out in this industry (and that's probably what you'll want to look out for when going into unfamiliar territory). But yeah having well-designed materials certainly helps. It's all about creating that "immersion" for the kids.

I do have a specialist diploma in educational therapy and certification in speech and drama arts. There's no need to have a special license to create these games; besides, I mostly use games that are already on the market. I did create a few of my own though!

All the best in your career!

DeadFastPro2 karma

can you help adults?

LYHH1 karma

I do but it depends on what kind of help is needed. It has to have an academic focus though—that's something I'm more comfortable with.

thebardingreen2 karma

What was your "very risky gamble?"

Are you familiar with Renaissance Adventures

LYHH2 karma

Basically dumping every dollar I had into online marketing. Google ads, Facebook ads, you name it. Caused me many sleepless nights as I didn't know what I was doing.

I'm not familiar with Renaissance Adventures but thanks for sharing it with me! It looks like an amazing programme for kids. We have a few like that here in Singapore too.

thebardingreen1 karma

You’re welcome. I know how awesome what you do is, because I did something similar for ten years! I really miss it. Hold on for dear life! I’m glad you made it work so well.

I wonder how well an online marketing blitz would work where I am.

LYHH1 karma

Thank you! All the best to your business too!

pokerchen2 karma

What kind of the evidences do you use to show your clients? Stories that the kids produce, video sessions, assessments from their school, or..?

LYHH2 karma

Yup! Usually word of mouth is enough, but yeah some parents would want to have a look at the materials we have or work that was done by students.

blueskadodo1 karma

What advice do you have for parents who are ADHD or similar spectrum disorders who have kids with learning difficulties?

LYHH3 karma

The first piece of advice is to keep calm and love your child for who he/she is. Then, work on their strengths but don't ignore their weaknesses either. Try to get intervention when they're between the ages of 7 to 9, but also collect as much information on these services as possible. If a place or individual isn't transparent enough with how they can help, consider looking elsewhere.

Wadyflamer1 karma

How often do you get confused with Sean Lowe from the bachelor?

LYHH2 karma

Never :P

Terra-Em1 karma

First off, grats on staying afloat. I think the premise for your company is great. I wish you the best. For those with learning disabilities especially ADHD and ASD, attention span is an issue. When you design your games how do keep them engaged enough not to lose focus? In video games or electronics we can use Audio or Visual cues but for table top games what do you do ?

LYHH1 karma

Good questions! I try to keep my games no longer than 1 hour and 45 minutes if possible. I typically also have visuals at the ready. With my projector-and-screen set-up, I can flash images as and when I need to.

I also play ambient tracks once the session is in full swing. These really help to immerse the kids in the fiction.

If I'm feeling a bit more creative, I'll play around with props and lighting to enhance the mood. This was my set-up for last Thursday's Halloween game: https://www.facebook.com/swordsandstationery/photos/3465168950243591

kardeng1 karma

Which topics do you teach using tabletop games and RPGs?

Did you also try less structured "Storytelling style" RPGs? (possibly free form without rules)

LYHH1 karma

Primarily the English language, though I sometimes incorporate real-world influences into the fiction to tie in with humanities-based subjects. Coincidentally, I just did Microscope with two classes recently. That was a lot of fun!

Eddie_Stilson1 karma

Hi Shaun! Do you happen to be related to Devin Low, creator of the Legendary Deck Building Game?

LYHH1 karma

Heh nope!

Eddie_Stilson2 karma

Haha just checking! As a fellow tabletop gaming nerd AND child development professional, I absolutely love what you're doing. Incredible stuff.

LYHH1 karma

Thanks for the kind words! Always glad to meet a fellow professional! Take care!

JontyDante1 karma

Hey there, just wanted to say this is great. As a dyslexic brained Music Therapist and hobby board gamer to boot, this is something I have been looking into with my clients with long term mental health illnesses, as well as brain injury and other client bases. I’ve just woken up so will read more about you and your work and would like to pick your brains if that’s ok?

LYHH1 karma

Of course! It'll be my pleasure :)

plaidfox1 karma

It's good to see another professional using TTRPGs to help kids. I haven't considered using such games for the issues you're talking about, and I find it refreshingly different from what I do. I'm a mental health counselor who uses D&D for social skills development and emotional regulation for both kids and adults.

I suppose my question is have you ever done online groups? And either way, what hurdles would you have to jump over in order to make that successful, in terms of GMing or "classroom management" ? My other question would have to be what is a story in which boundaries were crossed by one of the kids, not corrected, and then got way out of hand.

LYHH2 karma

I dabbled a bit in Roll20 outside of work and only ever tried it once with the kids. It was not a good experience; half the time they forgot their passwords or had issues logging in lol!

For successful GMing with the kids, the specifics differ from group to group. Most are compliant, but some may push boundaries and go full murderhobo (one chap wanted to kill a little girl NPC to loot her) while others may get bad anxiety attacks (a 1-to-1 campaign had to end because the student retired his character for fear of losing him). Healthy in-character banter can also quickly escalate to out-of-character conflicts.

Some of the things I do to avoid these problems:

  • Familiarise students with what an RPG entails;
  • Go through all of the basic rules properly, even if they zone out halfway;
  • Have a solid Session 0;
  • Do an AAR after every session to discuss what they did well in and what could be improved.

Essentially, it's about setting expectations. Once the kids know what to expect and agree to this spoken contract that there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed, they become easier to manage.

SparkyLife6401 karma

Hi shaun. Have you used your board game invention with autistic children?

If yes, how did the majority respond ( I understand it's a spectrum and autism varies widely from person to person)

Asking for my 6 year old god daughter. She's struggling with......life.

Her mom insists she starts kindergarten at a public school this year and it hasn't been going well at all.

Anything to bring an ounce of joy to this sweet lite girl's life, I'll try , as she's got a tough road ahead of her.

LYHH2 karma

Heya, good question! In my experience, I've found board games and even wargames to work better with kids on the spectrum than RPGs. Some do take to RPGs, but proportionately it's lower than those who aren't on the spectrum.

Regarding your goddaughter, are there any kindergartens or services nearby that can help children with learning challenges? I can imagine that it's going to be tough for her if she's placed in a public school.

Vinosdoh1 karma

Wow... as an ADD dude myself who feels grounded in the world of Magic the Gathering, I love this. Honestly sounds like a dream job, and I'm super jealous you get to do that as a career. I guess I should ask a question though...

Not trying to steal your entrepreneurial thunder, but how would I approach suggesting games like these to people with learning difficulties I know? I have a few younger friends/relatives in mind, and I know they'd love this kind of thing once they're into it, but getting started is the hardest part. And advice?

LYHH2 karma

In my experience, not knowing where to begin is the biggest barrier for people who are unfamiliar with tabletop gaming. I would suggest using entry-level games to ease them into the hobby. GW now has some nice starter sets so that's a good entry point for wargaming. For RPGs, there are many that don't require miniatures so you can start there too.

You may also want to come up with a structured way of explaining the rules to them. Seasoned gamers are likely to extrapolate more from reading a couple of pages than newcomers will, because we have a rough idea of how mechanics can potentially synergise with one another. Good, patient explanation can be all that is needed to reel someone in to the hobby.

fuddlesworth1 karma

I've recently learned dyslexia is almost an umbrella term for several related disorders: dysgraphia, dyscalculia. It also has forms of its own. Im 35 and just learned I actually have dysgraphia and not dyslexia.

Given these disorders all affect different but similar things, how does your program help with all these different forms?

LYHH2 karma

It's all about identifying each weakness/problem and its root cause. Say if a child is diagnosed with dysgraphia and writes slowly, but has legible handwriting: is she spending more time trying to control her pencil to write legibly, or is she trying to write while brainstorming new ideas? If the weakness and cause can be identified, I can tailor subsequent lessons to target these areas (if it's within my field of expertise).

drchigero1 karma

I am trying to understand what it is you are saying. But I'm confused. Though the concept sounds awesome.

Can you give an example or something on how an RPG session could help someone with, say dyslexia, for example?

LYHH1 karma

Sure! I did a cyberpunk RPG with some older learners recently and used that opportunity to go through vocabulary with them via a separate activity. They were less inclined to shy from the texts because they had a clearer idea of how to break them down, having been exposed to the relevant jargon during our gaming session ;)

Mhykael1 karma

First I just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to develop an idea like this. As a gamer and a dad I feel like when I try and play with the kids I like to try and toss in some teaching concepts occasionally so they're learning and having fun as well.

What would you say are some common challenges with this learning approach and how do you work through them\around them so kids are more receptive to this style of learning?

LYHH2 karma

Thanks for the kind words! A couple of common challenges would be kids who seem uninterested to learn or who have such low self-confidence that they prefer to play the contrarian. In such situations I find it better to build rapport first. It's also important to first establish the common understanding that they're here to learn, then get to know them better so as to identify their weaknesses and personalities, then gradually introduce them to fun, fantasy stories, then finally turn things up a notch and jump into RPGs and wargames.

NorthernVashishta1 karma

Congratulations! I've been prepping to launch a similar project in Canada. I've got my business plan and marketing strategy complete. My website needs a relaunch. But I've been running games in schools as part of my day job for a few years. And in my local gaming scene for fun.

But I want to make a go at this locally. I'm concerned that I'm missing the window. Because it's only this year that everyone is exploding in this particular field. So although I've been considering doing this for about 5 years, I haven't launched yet. I've got the scholastic angle locked. My MA isn't in therapy or counseling, and in Canada I can't operate under that banner without association memberships. I'm hoping to make strategic alliances with clinics and social workers. The trick will be explaining the power of our tools to the layman.

It's only now that serious academic research is being done in this area. So we're very much pushing the envelope, don't you think?

LYHH2 karma

Definitely! I hope your idea takes off. All the best!

queensara331 karma

Do you do this for dyscalculia?

LYHH1 karma

Not at the moment, but I work with associate educational therapists who are trained to help dyscalculic kids.

ShoppingCart961 karma

Hi! I’m writing a dissertation with a similar topic! I have a couple questions:

1) What would the obstacles be if you were planning to create something similar in poor communities or communities in difficult situations like refugee camps? 2) Any reading material you recommend?

Thank you!

LYHH2 karma

  1. I can't say for certain as I've never been in this circumstance, but I would think lack of exposure to certain genres could be a major obstacle. For instance, it's hard to sell 'fantasy" to people who know little about its tropes.
  2. Our friends at RPG Research have a wealth of information on RPGs in therapy. That's a good starting point.

All the best to your dissertation! Let me know when it's done, I'd be happy to read it!

GoFlyAChimera1 karma

I work with a lot of students with learning anxieties and develop learning confidence and problem solving. How do you take data or benchmark progress? How do you foresee future work and collaboration with other therapists and psychologists?

LYHH1 karma

At the moment, progress is pegged to how well they perform in school, and I work closely with their parents so I'm given feedback almost on a biweekly basis. The kids also have their individual files where their worksheets and materials are stored.

I'm always happy to work with others! Will never say no as long as we can help more kids!

yerbie121 karma

Can you tell us more about the specifics of the curriculum and is it based on evidence-based interventions?

What exactly do you see as the mechanism of learning?

To be clear, I love the idea! Just wondering about the background.

LYHH2 karma

I have this skill constellation which I designed some time ago, inspired by Grim Dawn and Path of Exile. The curriculum is split into a few parts: literacy, writing, reading comprehension, morphology, and social studies. It's all scaffolded and cumulative, meaning all kids start from the basics (though I don't do literacy with the non-dyslexic students). I go faster with the stronger ones though. The reason for this is because most of the concepts are interlinked. I won't be able to do the "y-to-i" rule with a child without first teaching him the fundamentals of morphology.

On the second question (the following copied from a post above), yes and no. The OG method from which my approach stems is research-backed, and in recent years, there has been more literature discussing the positive benefits of tabletop games, especially RPGs (which was why I left my previous company and started S&S, so I could integrate the two). However, as a combination of everything I've been doing, not yet. It's certainly something in the pipeline though!

The main mechanism of learning in my class would be a very active style (if I'm understanding your question correctly), where we frequently bounce ideas off each other. I really don't like rote memorisation because I'm terrible at it myself.

iAtty1 karma

While I was never introduced to table top RPGs or anything similar - I played video games my entire life. I had to overcome a speech impediment, I am dyslexic, and ADHD as well. I believe video games gave me a lot of the skills I use every day to be a mildly competent adult. I applaud using what can be viewed as alternative means for kids to overcome those types of things.

What do you think we as adults can do to better recognize and support younger generations dealing with such things? Primarily in day to day interactions versus long term support like what your company offers.

LYHH1 karma

Thanks for the kind words! I got a lot of mileage out of computer games too. Part of my vocabulary acquisition came from CRPGs like Baldur's Gate and Planescape Torment.

It's a good question you're asking. If you ask me, everything should be viewed long-term — character development, academic achievements, etc. Sure, short-term milestones are important, but in the grand scheme of things, we're preparing children to become responsible, resilient adults (before they even enter the workforce). Thus, consistency is key: how you interact with the child daily, how the child views adversity and subsequently the perspective they develop to overcome it — they need to be guided in a consistent manner by the adults around them. It's also important to not sweep problems under the rug. Not suggesting that the child should go out there and punch a bully in the face, but it's about molding the perspective that they take when confronted with bad situations.

patstigious1 karma

What tabletop games do you play?

LYHH1 karma

Many! RPGs, wargames, board games.... At the moment I'm playing Savage Worlds, Hero Kids, Star Breach, and Brutality with the kiddos.

Kylerayner41 karma

Are you looking to expand your program to other counties? How would that process theoretically happen?

LYHH2 karma

I am, but that's an option I'm still exploring. Probably will have an answer for that when the next AMA happens 5 years later XD

ilikecats561 karma

What aspects of gameplay help improve learning or functioning in a student who has, say, ADHD? In other words, how does the game help?

LYHH4 karma

Lots of ways, depending on how the game's structured. On a basic level, just by listening to instructions, one is learning to process auditory information. Move it one step up by demonstrating how mechanics intersect with one another, and that's where they learn how to make inferences. Building warband lists taps on their executive functions and fluid reasoning, getting them to write down each and every item they're "buying" trains their handwriting, and so on.

Incidentally, here's a funny story: I have a boy who, during one of our RPG sessions, wrote down a whole bunch of magical items in his inventory. Later on, he realised he couldn't read his own handwriting, so we had no idea what magical items he'd picked up. That meant we had to remove those items from his inventory. It was a good incentive for him to work on his handwriting next time round (after talking to him about it).

artsforall1 karma

Did you intentionally try and help kids with learning disabilities, or was that a beneficial side effect?

LYHH2 karma

I was looking for a job and I never did think I would become a therapist, but I never regretted that decision one bit. It's a unique feeling when you hear from kids who had graduated, telling you how they're doing now.

NenDeshiri1 karma

This is something that I'm extremely interested in and have been wanting to learn more about. How can I get involved or bring something like this to students in my area?

LYHH1 karma

I've heard of after-school D&D clubs in schools that are based in the US. You might want to talk to the teachers from the schools in your local area and see if any of them are interested in setting up such a club.

Selaura1 karma

I have a teen with autism, ptsd from school in the US, and anxiety. Would this be advantageous for them?

LYHH1 karma

Possibly! No harm exploring more of the hobby. Miniature collecting or board gaming would be a good place to start, as RPGs can be draining for some.

LunariHime1 karma

Specifically, how does your program help children with their adhd? Is adhd considered a learning disability?

LYHH2 karma

It depends on the severity. When I incorporated miniature painting into my programme, it's helped a number of kids to calm down and stay focused. Of course, I had to be at their side to repeat the mantra, "Breathe. Steady." RPGs also help in their metacognition. It is important to note, however, that the activities themselves are only part of the process. What's equally important is having someone to talk about these values with the kids so that they can internalise them.

MrBigBMinus1 karma

As a budding DM with a passion to help people where can I learn more about this and what I might be able to do to help?

LYHH1 karma

RPG Research will steer you in the right direction! They have many great articles on their site.

Artymess1 karma

Hello from a teacher who's started to adopt gamification more and more in the classroom!

Do you think you would want to design your own educational games eventually? Or is it better to stick to using already established games?

LYHH2 karma

I do want to design and release something of my own. I have a prototype board game (aptly titled 'PBG') that works but is pretty broken. Mechanics are all over the place, and though the kids liked it, I decided to shelve until I can find enough time to fix its problems. Maybe in the near future....

Chared9451 karma

Do you feel that games like DnD could be used in other ways such as immersive therapy to literally battle ones own demons and help children and teens deal with bullying, confidence building or overcoming trauma?

LYHH2 karma

Definitely! I've seen many of my kids grow stronger because of our RPG campaigns. It's helped to give them much needed resilience.

That being said, it's far from being a miracle solution. What's equally integral, if not more so, is having a communicative, loving environment at home.

Wynautjjj1 karma

Is there any way teachers/educators in other countries can pay/use your program? I love this! I think it would be a great fit with some of my students.

LYHH1 karma

Not at the moment! I would love to bring it to more places though, perhaps in the near future. Thank you for the kind words :)

gametogrow1 karma

Hey Shaun. We're big fans of your work. I'm curious how COVID had impacted your work at S&S and how you've adapted to the challenges it presents?

LYHH1 karma

Hey Adam! Glad to see you guys pop by! When the circuit breaker hit (that's what we called our lockdown), I turned to Discord for e-learning. One of the coolest things we did there was a text adventure similar to the Infocom games. The e-learning phase gave me the chance to try out new activities that I would otherwise not have been able to do.

What's interesting was that the kids were able to stay focused during our e-learning sessions even though some of their parents had warned me that they would likely start running all over the place. The small class size helped, but I also changed up certain activities so that the kids were required to focus on me at all times. Example: I scrapped the usual Spelling activity and instead used this web-based game called Spelling Shed, altering the spelling lists as needed. It was very tiring as I spent 2x the amount of time prepping each e-lesson as compared to its physical counterpart, but boy was it eye-opening. I still use some of these apps in our face-to-face classes (e.g. Classcraft), and it's changed the way I do certain things (like using more colour coding in my presentations to help the visual learners comprehend the information better).

P.S. Thank you for inspiring me to start S&S! Wheelhouse/Game To Grow was one of my inspirations :)

rossumcapek1 karma

What are three games that you want to play/run, but have never played?

LYHH2 karma

Gaslands, Frostgrave and Deadzone!