Sports Games Boosts Tim Mather’s Quality of Life – By John M. Williams

Tim Mather sits in front of a computer. He waits patiently for the alarm clock near his desk to ring. His daily routine is to wait until the alarm rings ay 9:00 a.m. When the alarm goes off, he puts on his headphones, turns on the computer and waits for it to boot up. When it does, he clicks on the My Football icon and stares at the screen until he hears, ‘EA Sports. It’s in the game.”A smile appears on his face as the picture of a football player appears. He can choose to play either a child’s version or an adult’s version of My Football Game.

“I love action,” says Tim.

“Tim will sit for hours every day and play My Football. My Golf Game, and other computer games with movement,” says his father, Michael.

Tim’s father is overwhelmed with joy that Tim has found an activity that occupies many hours of his time during the day. Tim is autistic. Autism is a neurological disorder characterized by impaired social interaction as well as repetitive behavior.

Tim is looking at a picture of a football player. “Big and strong,” he says. He clicks on the adult version button. He is looking at buttons numbered levels 1, 2, 3 and the words Championship ring.  Each level gives him a different activity.

“Tim has never clicked on Championship ring,” said Lucifer, Tim’s 20-year-old brother.

Tom loves clicking because it brings him new pictures. He clicks on Level 1. Lucifer then clicks on a button and now Tim is staring at eight football icons. The icons are drills for rookies and cover kicking, trench fight, ground attack, QB pocket reserve, passing, tackling, punting and swat ball. Tim clicks on the kicking icon. He says, “I kick far.”

There’s an expression of joy on his face as he practices kicking. He loves seeing the kicker kick and the ball soaring through the air.

“Watch the ball,” Tim says as the ball soars through the goal post uprights.

Except for moments like these, Tim seldom shows any emotional feelings, his father says.

Tim’s IQ is about 75. When speaking to people he seldom looks at them. He rarely starts a conversation. He prefers being alone. His sentences seldom are more than five words, and if you sit him in front of a computer chess board he stares at the board and never makes a move. However after someone has moved a piece he becomes engaged and starts moving his pieces. Sometimes he wins.

When it comes to playing computer games with movement, Tim is proactive. He is a fanatic for repetition.

Fifteen minutes after he starts My Football Game, an alarm goes off. Tim knows it is time to go to another activity. Lucifer picks passing. Tim’s face lights up as he practices the quarterback passing to different receivers. He does this by pressing the following keys S, R, F. He points to the football in the air and says, “I throw the ball.” There is a triumphant look on his face.

“Tim can associate causal relationships. I believe he thinks that since the ball can only be thrown when he pushes a key that he’s the one throwing,” says Lucifer who is certain that the different activities the game offers improves Tim’s hand-eye coordination and concentration. Tim plays two different drills daily. He is good at pushing the keys to produce action.

Fifteen  minutes after starting this exercise an alarm goes off, and Lucifer shows Tim how to exit this activity and skipping level 2, they proceed to Level 3 which is a 20 minute game, comprised of four five minute quarters, between opposing teams. Today the teams are the Chicago Sailors and the Indianapolis Romans. Tim’s favorite is the Eagles and then the Tigers.  He owns a parakeet and has a picture of a white tiger on his bedroom wall. As Tim and Lucifer prepare to start the game, Tim’s demeanor changes. He removes his headphones and listens to the crowd’s noise. He is often disturbed by loud, continuous noises. The simulated crowd noises don’t bother him.

“Listen,” he said as he diligently watches the coin flip. “Yes” he barely shouts while pumping his arm in the air. His team has won the coin toss and will receive the foot ball.

Tim watches closely as Lucifer sets up his defense against a run back. The football is kicked off. Tim’s team receives it and returns it 20 yards. On the first offensive play, the Sailors run the ball wide left and the runner scores a touchdown. Realizing what has happened; Tim turns to Lucifer and says, “Touchdown for me.”

An instant replay of the game produces this comment from Tim. “My runner.”

As Tim’s team prepares to kickoff, by pressing the S key, he selects one of three defenses appearing on the screen.

“I don’t know how he does it, but Tim appears to understand these different defenses,” says his father.

Lucifer says, “Computer games such as My Football Game helps improve Tim’s hand-eye coordination and thinking skills.”

For 20 minutes, Tim is alert. He watches, thinks and responds to plays. When the game is over, he has won. He is proud of his victory and points to his chest and says, “I won.” Sometimes he says, “The winner.”

Tim plays a second football game. This time against his father. Tim wins 24 to 17. The second win increases his confidence to the point that he seems as though he is bragging.  “Bring it on,” Tim says with defiance.

Tim plays other football games on the computer. They are by Tiger Woods and Microsoft… His father says, “Tim prefers My Football Game. He spends three hours daily playing the football game.”     Meanwhile Tim’s interest in computer golf games is rising.”

Three years ago, Tim played his first game of Putt, Putt golf. Since then he has become a fanatic and plays the game weekly with his father, Lucifer and his 14-year-old brother Thomas. He affectionately calls Thomas “little brother.” He sometimes calls him Tom, but never Thomas.

When playing Putt-Putt golf, Tim takes a lot of time studying each hole. He is limited to 60 seconds a shot. He takes the full 60 seconds always. He seldom goes over par on each hole. Last year, Tim started playing computer golf games. Recently Tim and Thomas set up, My Golf Game. One of the activities of My Golf Game is practicing putting. Tim loves putting and putts, and putts and putts for 30 minutes… He goes to that activity first when playing,

Tim enjoys the chip shot exercise. There are five opportunities to put the ball in the hole. While he fails most of the time, the failures don’t deter him. When he puts the ball in the hole, he congratulates himself by clapping.

Tim is enthralled by My Golf Game’s create your own golf character feature. As a result, he created a youthful golfer in his image. Tim uses his image all the time.. He calls his avatar, “Tim. That’s me.”

“My brother thinks he is on a putt-putt gold course when playing My Golf Game,” Thomas says. He putts with Tim.

My Football Game and My Golf Game were created so people with disabilities could be included in social activities that enrich their lives.

“I am so happy to learn about Tim’s success with the games,” said Chuck Bergen, president of VTree, LLC, and creator of both games.

To learn more about My Golf Game and My Football Game visit http://www.vtreellc.com/home/my-golf-game.html and http://vtreellc.com/home/my-football-game.html.

John M. Williams can b reached at jwilliams@atechnews.com. His web site is www.atechnews.com.