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Neurodiversity, Dungeons, and Dragons: A guide to transforming and enriching TTRPGs for Neurodivergent Adults OR The Neurodivergent Player’s Handbook

Valorozo-Jones, Caleb (2021) Neurodiversity, Dungeons, and Dragons: A guide to transforming and enriching TTRPGs for Neurodivergent Adults OR The Neurodivergent Player’s Handbook. [MRP]

Item Type: MRP
Creators: Valorozo-Jones, Caleb

Traditional hierarchical research methodologies and resources are exclusive because family and external stakeholders are prioritized over neurodivergent people. Unfortunately, the continued lack of inclusive design principles result in a lack of understanding of both neurodivergent culture, and the needs of the neurodivergent community. This study actively includes neurodivergent people by using participatory research methodology, and inclusive design principles and pedagogy explored in Critical Disability Studies and Critical Autism Studies.
The continued pathologizing of neurodiverse conditions influences how medical systems treat neurodivergent people; Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is the standard therapeutic treatment for autistic people. The focus of ABA and comparable treatments is to condition neurodivergent people to appear neurotypical, putting the onus on the neurodivergent community to change their behaviours instead of emphasizing acceptance and tolerance of neurodivergent people and behaviours. The statements and lived experiences of neurodivergent people who have experienced ABA showcases that it is not neurodivergent people that benefit from ABA and similar therapies, but neurotypical society that benefits from conditioning and changing the behaviours of neurodivergent folks (even if it may be at the expense of mental health and well-being).
Neurodivergent self-advocacy groups, and Critical Autism scholars have expressed the need for therapies which build and encourage self-advocacy. Neurodiversity research focuses on conformity, so the unique abilities and culture of neurodivergent people is under researched. Role-play is an effective learning tool often used in therapy to help people practice skills in a low-risk environment. Role-play also is a core activity in Tabletop Role-Playing Games (TTRGPs) like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D) which allow players to explore and practice different identities and behaviours in a structured environment with more explicit rules than every day social interactions. D&D replicates the social constructs of the real world, but does not have neurodivergence or disability as an explicit social construct in its lore.
I interviewed 5 self-identifying neurodivergent adults about their lived experience, held a co-design session, and observed 15 hours of their gameplay with custom designed neurodivergent mechanics with both strengths and weaknesses. We examined the gaps in structure and consent in the core D&D rules; the official rulebooks lack guidelines about boundary setting, consent, and facilitation for Dungeon Masters and players.
Characters’ neurodivergent mechanics allowed players to more explicitly model their experience in the groups’ co-created D&D world. This was possible because we used different TTRPG safety tools to establish boundaries which establish psychological safety that is not typically available to neurodivergent folks in everyday life. The experiences of players and their characters bled into one another. This caused players to experience positive shifts in self-esteem, and practice transferable self-autonomy skills for potential out-of-game, real life self-advocacy and liberation.

Date: 2021
Uncontrolled Keywords: Inclusive Design, Neurodiversity, Role-play, Dungeons & Dragons, TTRPG, Role-playing Game Studies
Divisions: Graduate Studies > Inclusive Design
Date Deposited: 21 Sep 2021 12:53
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2021 16:02
URI: https://openresearch.ocadu.ca/id/eprint/3498

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