Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Children with autism may learn from 'virtual peers'

04.03.2008
Using “virtual peers” -- animated life-sized children that simulate the behaviors and conversation of typically developing children -- Northwestern University researchers are developing interventions designed to prepare children with autism for interactions with real-life children.

Justine Cassell, professor of communication studies and electrical engineering and computer science, recently presented a preliminary study on the work at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“Children with high-functioning autism may be able to give you a lecture on a topic of great interest to them but they can’t carry on a ‘contingent’ -- or two-way -- conversation,” said Cassell, director of Northwestern’s Center for Technology and Social Behavior.

Cassell and researcher Andrea Tartaro collected data from six children with high-functioning autism aged 7 to 11 as they engaged in play during an hour-long session with a real-life child, and with a virtual peer named Sam.

In an analysis of those interactions, they found that children with autism produced more and more “contingent” sentences when they spoke with the virtual peer, while their sentences did not become increasingly contingent when they were paired with the real-life children.

“Certainly we’re not saying that virtual peers make the best playmates for children with autism,” said Tartaro. “The overall goal is for the children with autism to generalize the skills they learn in practice sessions with virtual peers to meaningful interactions with real-world children.”

Nor are Northwestern researchers saying they can teach “contingency” -- appropriate back and forth conversation -- in a single session. But their findings hold promise that virtual peers can be useful in helping children with autism develop communication and social skills.

And virtual peers have some distinct advantages over real-life children when it comes to practicing social skills. For starters, children with autism often like technology. “It interacts to us,” said one child with autism upon first meeting a virtual peer.

What’s more, said Cassell, virtual peers don’t get tired or impatient. “We can program their conversation to elicit socially-skilled behavior, and we can vary the way that they look and behave so children with autism are exposed to different kinds of behavior.”

Cassell and Tartaro’s study is part of larger efforts taking place in the Articulab, the Northwestern University laboratory where Cassell and colleagues explore how people communicate with and through technology.

In the Articulab, Cassell, who was trained as a psychologist and linguist, and Tartaro are teaming up with psychologist Miri Arie to develop assessment and intervention procedures that they hope will give them a better understanding of peer behaviors of children with autism.

A major challenge for children with autism is learning the rules of social behavior that typically developing children seem to learn intuitively.

“Although children’s play appears spontaneous and wild, it follows certain basic social rules,” said Arie. “We hope virtual peers like Sam will allow children with autism to practice the rules behind joining a game, holding a conversation and maintaining social interaction. Then they can apply their newly acquired skills to real-life situations.”

Wendy Leopold | alfa
Further information:
http://articulab.northwestern.edu/
http://www.northwestern.edu

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht New High-Performance Center Translational Medical Engineering
26.04.2017 | Fraunhofer ITEM

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

SwRI-led team discovers lull in Mars' giant impact history

26.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>