Abstract: Traditional face-to-face social interactions can be challenging for individuals with autism, leading some to perceive and categorize these individuals as less social than their peers. For example, autism can be accompanied by difficulty making eye contact, interpreting some nonverbal cues, and performing coherent verbal utterances. While these challenges can be interpreted as an inability or lack of desire for social interactions, researchers have begun to explore how to expand the definition of sociality for those with autism. My research explores how technology can support alternative means of sociality, particularly for children with autism engaged in social play. In this advancement talk, I will present two research studies: SensoryPaint and Autcraft. SensoryPaint is a multimodal sensory environment built to enable whole-body interaction with the Kinect. Evaluation of SensoryPaint was conducted in two stages: a lab-based study and a deployment study. Results from this study show how these systems can promote socialization. My second research project explores Autcraft, a Minecraft community for children with autism and their allies. I will present results from on-going ethnographic work exploring the community’s Minecraft server and other community affiliated social media. Results from this study highlight ways in which community members use technology to create a safe environment for children with autism to explore alternative forms of social expression. Findings suggest an expansion of how sociality has traditionally been conceptualized for individuals with autism and how technology plays a key role in facilitating this new sociality.
I am happy to announce that our paper, “SensoryPaint: A Multimodal Sensory Intervention for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders” has received Best Paper Nomination at Ubicomp 2014. Many thanks to my awesome co-authors as well as others who helped with editing and other feedback. I presented this paper Sept 17, 2014.
Many children with neurodevelopmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, have sensory processing disorders (SPD), which can lead to inappropriate behaviors and impairments. One therapeutic approach to the kinds of SPD frequently observed in children with neurodevelopmental disorders involves the use of a variety of tools including objects with various textures and tactile sensations, mirrors, and Multisensory Environments (MSE) saturated with visual and audible stimuli and specialized equipment for sensory stimulation. However, children with SPD each have a unique prescription for the amount of stimulation they require for the therapy to be effective. MSE must be physically altered before each child receives therapy.
SensoryPaint is an interactive surface with the capability of superimposing the user’s reflection on a projected surface and “painting” this surface with balls of different textures and colors, which was designed to augment traditional therapies. This software uses a Kinect to detect the movements of the user and the balls. The user’s image is reflected on the screen, as well as their shadow superimposed on their reflection. SensoryPaint is a software originally developed at CICESE in Ensenada, Mexico.
Initial studies of the SensoryPaint system are focused on uncovering the potential of this technology to support sensory integration, including stimulus sensitivity, body awareness, motor functioning, and attention and engagement.