According to parents I interviewed, flexibility is a common issue among kids enrolled in Wheelhouse Workshop. Structure and rules can help kids with autism cope with a disorienting world, but also, make social interaction quite difficult. A parent of a Wheelhouse Workshop attendee told me that, among peers, her son has trouble deviating from his own ideas of what’s right. D&D forces players to consider others’ strategies for avoiding sleeping orcs or rely on other players’ high charisma score to negotiate with enemies. “He’s actually told me he disagreed sometimes with what his fellow adventurers have decided,” she told me, “and that later sometimes he’s come around and agreed that the decision turned out okay.” She added that “this is a startling increase in flexibility for him.”


D&D isn’t about to become the next inkblot test or “and how does that make you feel?” But there is a strong continuity between players’ internal lives and escapist fantasies. Leveraging those fantasies in the service of therapy isn’t a big leap, in part, because it’s not entirely intuitive. D&D was never, and will never, be marketed as a tool for therapists. It’s just a game. That’s also why it might catch on with kids who need help.