Advancement to PhD Candidate

I’m happy to report I successfully passed my advancement to become a PhD Candidate!

My talk was titled “Technology Mediated Socialization for Children with Autism.”

Committee: Gillian Hayes (Chair), Rebecca Black, Mimi Ito, Josh Tanenbaum, and Tom Boellstorff

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.

Resource List – Making Presentations Accessible

A black and white photo of a laptop computer, a smart phone, and a notepad with a pen all on a desk.

I’ve been compiling a list of useful links on how to make a presentation accessible. The top tips are:

  1. Use Sans Serif font larger than 28 pts.
  2. Use colors that are high contrast (e.g., black font on white background).
  3. Limit moving and crazy transitions (good for those prone to motion sickness in the room).
  4. Use alt text for all images, graphics, and videos within the presentation in order for the screen reader to be able to access the information. (And don’t put key information only in a graphic with no alt text!!)

will update the list as I find more resources. Feel free to share your favorite accessibility resources in the comments below!

Making “Safe” in a Minecraft Server for Kids with Autism

We discuss how parents are creating a “safe” space in a Minecraft virtual world for children with autism by continually reexamining the boundaries of what is considered safe and unsafe.

Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Dombrowski, L., and Hayes, G.R. “Making ‘Safe’: Community-Centered Practices in a Virtual World Dedicated to Children with Autism”. Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Work, ACM (2015). [Acceptance Rate: 28.3%].

CHI 2016 Video Preview of Minecraft Paper

Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Faucett, H., Dombrowski, L., and Hayes, G.R. “’Will I always not be social?’: Re-Conceptualizing Sociality in the Context of a Minecraft Community for Autism”. Proceedings of the 2016 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, ACM (2016). To Appear. [Acceptance Rate: 23.4%]


A handful of experiences and people helped to transform me from a lost undergraduate who was thinking of dropping out, to a successful, ambitious graduate student. I struggled for many years as an underrepresented student, both as a woman and as a student with a disability, to complete my undergraduate degree and find my niche in the world. Now, not only do I want to make a career of researching assistive technology, I also want to be a mentor for those who follow me, just as I had mentors to guide my way.

As the only woman in my undergraduate computing classes, I faced adversity and isolation. I sought support and attended the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing Conference (GHC). Upon learning that I was one of many women facing isolation in their computing courses, I founded an ACM-W Chapter for women in computing at Washington State University Vancouver (WSUV). I felt the need to create greater participation of college women in computing, a support network for them, and a way to mentor freshmen and high school girls. As the chair of the chapter for the first year, I planned a campus-wide event to encourage women to pursue computing careers and spoke at a panel discussion. The event hosted 40 women from campus and the local community and received very positive feedback. The women from the community college who had not considered pursuing a four-year degree until they heard our panel inspired me. I have continued to mentor one young woman who is now pursuing her undergraduate degree in computer science and intends to continue on to graduate school.

On my graduate school campus, University of California Irvine (UCI), I am involved in a similar group: Women in Information and Computer Sciences (WICS). I volunteered with WICS in summer 2013 to mentor middle and high school girls interested in computing. In fall 2013, I also helped start a graduate chapter of this group. As a graduate student representative for UCI, I attended GHC 2014 as a student volunteer. My connections with these groups led me to other opportunities, such as conducting research and presenting at two academic conferences, as well as mentoring underrepresented undergraduates.

Through my experiences with the women in computing groups, I have realized how important mentorship is for those in the early stages of their careers. Through teaching and mentoring, I have been able to ignite my passion for helping others through research with students and also pass along valuable skills that they will use in their future studies. During my first year as a graduate student, I led a diverse team of undergraduates, all of whom are underrepresented minorities, in the development of a whole-body interface application on the Microsoft Kinect for children with autism. I encouraged my team to work together to solve problems and learn how to collaborate effectively. I also coached them in giving a presentation to the lab about their work. Continuing this project, I have expanded the scope of the software, and have begun working with a professor from the Dance Department to create new avenues of therapy for children with autism. One of the undergraduates I mentored has since graduated with a B.S. in Informatics and is now applying to graduate school.

In an effort to serve my local community, I volunteer as an instructor for technology use workshops for young adults with autism who are transitioning into the workplace from high school. In a more formal setting, I have also had the opportunity to be a teaching assistant for undergraduate level courses. As part of my responsibilities, I have worked with students one-on-one, as well as leading discussion sections of more than 40 students. In addition to regular discussion lectures, I also gave a guest lecture to the entire class of 250 students. Knowing the importance of mentorship for undergraduates, these varied teaching experiences increase my desire to seek a position that allows me to continue mentorship my PhD.


Social media, including virtual worlds, has the potential to support children with autism in making friendships, learning pro-social behavior, and engaging in collaborative play with their peers.  However, currently, little is known about how children with autism interact socially in online spaces. Furthermore, there is much more to learn about how technology can support these collaborative interactions. In this study, I propose investigating how a virtual world can be intentionally run alongside other complementary social media (e.g., website, forum, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) specifically for children with autism. The contribution of this work is to create design guidelines for creating social media systems (including virtual worlds) to support social interactions of children with autism.

Click HERE to learn more about the overall study.

Current Publications:

Kathryn E. Ringland, Christine T. Wolf, LouAnne E. Boyd, Mark Baldwin, and Gillian R. Hayes. 2016. Would You Be Mine: Appropriating Minecraft as an Assistive Technology for Youth with Autism. In ASSETS 2016. [Acceptance Rate: 25%]. Best Paper. [PDF]

Ringland, K. E., Wolf, C. T., Faucett, H., Dombrowski, L., & Hayes, G. R. (2016). “‘Will I always be not social?’: Re-Conceptualizing Sociality in the Context of a Minecraft Community for Autism”. In Proceedings of ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems 2016. [Acceptance Rate: 23.4%].

Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Dombrowski, L., and Hayes, G.R. “Making ‘Safe’: Community-Centered Practices in a Virtual World Dedicated to Children with Autism”. Proceedings of the 2015 ACM International Conference on Computer Supported Collaborative Work, ACM (2015). [Acceptance Rate: 28.3%].

Ringland, K.E., Wolf, C.T., Hayes, G.R. (2015, May 15). “The Benefits of Online Play: An Investigation of Virtual Worlds for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. International Meeting for Autism Research Salt Lake City, Utah.

Ringland, K.E., Hayes, G.R. (2014, April 27). “Virtual Worlds: An Alternative Method for Communication for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”. Workshop: Supporting Children with Complex Communication Needs. ACM SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Toronto, Canada.

Last Updated: May 15, 2017.

I am now conducting interviews! Find out more information HERE.

Related Posts:

Making in Minecraft: A Means of Self-Expression for Youth with Autism

Preview: Maker culture values fabrication and production in both the digital and physical realms as well as the sharing of ...
Read More

PDF of Analog Games Paper

Here is the pdf version of my Analog Games Paper, "Who Has Access? Making Accessible Play Spaces in Minecraft for ...
Read More

QGCon Presentation Available on YouTube

My QGCon presentation, "Minecraft as a Site of Sociality for Autistic Youth," is now available on YouTube. My talk starts ...
Read More


Individuals with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders often experience sensory perception impairments, which can lead to challenges such as sensitivity to loud noises or irritation from specific textures on their skin. Atypical movement, such as rocking, can be exhibited as compensation for this sensory perception impairment.

Currently, therapists use dance therapy to stimulate the various senses in children with autism to help reduce atypical movement and to increase engagement in the activity. DanceCraft is a system developed to further the aims of dance therapy by increasing the children’s body awareness. We will be exploring how the software engenders different interactions styles to help inform the design of future systems focused on using body based movements to support dance therapy.

Related Posts:

UCI Informatics Write Up on DanceCraft

Lovely write up about the DanceCraft study by the Informatics department here at UCI: ...
Read More

DanceCraft Software Demo Video ...
Read More

DanceCraft Software Update for Fall 2015 ...
Read More

Minecraft Interviews

Screenshot 2015-06-30 12.06.09

The purpose of this research is to determine how children with Autism Spectrum Disorder use the virtual world Minecraft to communicate. While there are no direct benefits from participation in the study, it may explain how children with Autism Spectrum Disorder socialize and how to best assist them with technological interventions for communication. Interviews will take place within Minecraft, in person, or via Skype, depending on your preference. Interviews should take approximately 1 hour.

Please email me at kringlan [at] uci [dot] edu to arrange an interview!

Click HERE for info for parents.

Click HERE for info for adults being interviewed.

Click HERE to learn more about the overall study.

Paper on SensoryPaint wins Best Paper Nomination at Ubicomp 2014

Ubicomp LootI 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.

Full citation here:

Ringland, K.E., Zalapa, R., Neal, M., Escobedo, L., Tentori, M., and Hayes, G.R. “SensoryPaint: A Multimodal Sensory Intervention for Children with Neurodevelopmental Disorders”. Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Conference on Ubiquitous Computing, ACM (2014).

Video: Development of EAPSI Project App Part 1

I’ve been making steady headway into my project development. This last week, I overcame some large hurdles which should mean smoother sailing this week. My favorite part? How iOS has speech synthesizing built right in.

Also- I realize the Japanese isn’t perfect! I promise, I’ll have a native speaker (or two) review my app before I show it off properly. 🙂