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Autism and technology: beyond assistance & intervention
Frauenberger C., Good J., Pares N.  CHI EA 2016 (Proceedings of the 2016 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Santa Clara, CA,  May 7-12, 2016) 3373-3378. 2016. Type: Proceedings
Date Reviewed: Jun 14 2017

This publication presents the underlying philosophy of the “Autism and Technology: Beyond Assistance & Interventions” workshop on various aspects of the design principles and impact of technological tools that could be used as learning and therapeutic interventions for individuals with autism, organized by professors Chris Frauenberger, Judith Good, and Narcís Parés within the 2016 ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (CHI), held in May 2016 in San Jose, California.

The key idea was not only to present innovative technological tools, but to focus on novel design methodological concepts and how to evaluate the experiences of people (mainly individuals with autism as well as therapists and parents) who participate in interventions using such tools.

At this one-day workshop, several promising innovative tools that support many interaction styles were presented by research and development (R&D) teams from every continent, such as: virtual worlds, collocated multiplayer games, whole-body Kinect-based multimodal applications, wearable devices, and smart rooms for offering a variety of visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli. The full list of 12 papers discussed during this workshop can be found on the workshop’s website [1].

This workshop is yet more evidence that there are many opportunities to innovate in terms of design, development, and validation of new technologies for helping individuals with autism improve cognitive, emotional, motor, and social skills. However, two main challenges need to be met:

  • Provide evaluation frameworks and tools to easily measure the impact of technology on autism interventions and their implications in a consistent and comparative way. There are very few publications on this topic, such as [2].
  • Apply participatory methodologies for designing technologies for individuals with autism, as well as flexible spaces where therapists, individuals, and designers can meet and collaborate [3].

As a result, another workshop, “Interaction Design and Autistic Children,” is being organized within the Interaction Design for Children (IDC) conference in June 2017 at Stanford University, aiming to bring together researchers who explore interactive technologies in the context of children with autism with the key questions: “Are we trying to do the right thing? Is it working?” [4].

In closing, scientists (including me) see digital technologies as a promising route for delivering engaging therapeutic interventions or pragmatically supporting everyday issues effectively and efficiently. We need to continue our efforts at helping individuals with autism reach their full potential.

Reviewer:  Symeon Retalis Review #: CR145350 (1708-0567)
1) CHI 2016 Workshop: Autism & Technology, http://igw.tuwien.ac.at/chi16-autismtechnology (06/04/2017).
2) McConachie, H.; Parr, J. R.; Glod, M.; Hanratty, J.; Livingstone, N.; Oono, I. P.; Robalino, S.; Baird, G.; Beresford, B.; et al. Systematic review of tools to measure outcomes for young children with autism spectrum disorder. Health Technology Assessment 19, 41(2015).
3) Frauenberger, C.; Makhaeva, J.; Spiel, K. Blending methods: developing participatory design sessions for autistic children. In Proc. of the 16th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children ACM Press, 2017.
4) IDC 2017 Workshop: Interaction Design and Autistic Children, http://outsidethebox.at/en/outcomes/idc17-workshop (06/04/2017).
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