HEWLETT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A teenager from Long Island has won a big award for creating a game for children with special needs.
As CBS2’s Cindy Hsu reported, he was inspired by his young neighbor.
Ben Moelis, 18, created the board game “The Magic Arrows” for his 14-year-old neighbor, Justin Silver, who has fragile X syndrome, the most commonly inherited form of autism.
Justin loves to play games, but stress can take over when he changes activities.
“The decision itself of what to do next causes him a lot of anxiety, and Justin, specifically, it causes him to have seizures,” Moelis said.
Moelis’ enthusiasm to build the game quickly spread, and he got others involved — family, friends, teachers and more than 20 students at Lynbrook High School.
They spent eight months creating the game that helps making decisions into a game, cutting down on anxiety.
“Justin could start with getting dressed, and once he’s done getting dressed, go and place the peg in the ‘eat breakfast,'” Moelis described of the game. “And once he’s done with that, it’s place the peg in ‘go to school.'”
There’s also a rewards component to the game.
“He could either have TV, play with a puzzle or call grandma and grandpa,” Moelis explained.
Moelis won a $36,000 Diller Teen Tikkun Olam award that recognizes teenagers committed to social good and presented the game at a Fragile X Foundation conference.
He and his team are working toward turning the board game into a mobile app to be released next year, with proceeds going to charity.
Justin’s parents said their son loves the game — along with the inventor.
“We are thrilled and excited and can’t believe that Ben and his team have done this,” said Brian Silver, Justin’s father.
“It’s a beautiful relationship, and you wish that Justin would be surrounded by Bens his entire life,” added Shari Silver, Justin’s mother.
“Everybody has that Justin in their life,” Moelis said. “Everybody has that person that really helps them see the better side of themselves, that person that makes them want to do better. So I think the only advice would be to find that Justin and to find how you can help other people.”
Moelis will head to Duke University in the fall and plans to keep finding ways to help his friend.