Assistive Technology to Educate Students with Autism

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Many people with ASC (autism spectrum conditions) have intricacy in identifying emotions in themselves and other people. The current study explored the use of assistive technology to educate ER (emotion recognition) to eight kids with autism spectrum conditions. Partakers were between the ages of 8 and 12 years and had a diagnosis of AS (Asperger syndrome). Emotion recognition testing was done using a computer at pre and post interference. The intervention comprised of 12 weeks of using the computer software of Mind Reading: 'The Interactive Guide to Emotionsâ„¢' in either school or home settings. The results showed that after intervention, partakers improved on voice and face emotion recognition for complex and basic emotions in the software, in addition to complex voice emotion recognition for emotions not incorporated in Mind Reading. This paper intends to discuss on the use of assistive technology to educate students with Autism.


People with autism spectrum conditions have impairments in public communication; included in this core impairment is an intricacy with the social emotional reciprocity in addition to nonverbal communication such as gestures, facial expression and eye contact. Regularly, people with autism spectrum conditions have difficulties identifying emotions particularly complex emotions that call for metalizing (jealous, embarrassed, sarcastic) in both themselves and other people. All of these complications can add to challenges in keeping and making friendships and other encouraging peer relationships.

The Use of Assistive Technology to Educate Students with Autism

The theory of mind is one conceptualization used to explain the social impairment in autism spectrum conditions (Golan and Bauminger, 2006). The theory states that people with autism spectrum conditions have an intrinsic disability in terms of recognizing the psychological perspective of others. That is, they have problem imputing emotion, meaning, and intent to other people. Deficits in this part are serious to effective social interaction, to a great extent it is anticipated on knowing what other people are feeling or thinking.

Getting to know emotions is one aspect of the capability to take another person's perspective. A number of studies have researched on the interventions to educate individuals with autism spectrum conditions to identify emotions. These comprise social skill instruction (Golan and Bauminger, 2006) and assistive technology interventions. For instance, Bauminger (2006) examined the use of a behavior based intervention to assist in the emotion recognition skills of 15 high responding kids with autism, ages 8 to 17. The intervention involved lessons from a social skill syllabus used in the school setting for 2 to 4 hours per week for 7 months. The lessons comprised of activities such as role play and just plays with a normally developing peer and working on the skills acquired from each weekly lesson with parents at home. The end results showed advancement in the kid's emotional ability and knowledge to give examples of difficult emotions. Specially, at post intervention, the partakers with autism were likely to start social communication with their peers and spent a lot of time displaying encouraging social behaviors.

In another study, Hadwin, Baron-Cohen, Howlin, and Hill (1996) taught children with autism spectrum conditions to foresee and identify emotions in others using a computer based intervention called the Emotions Trainer. Partakers between the ages of 12 and 20, incorporated in either a control group or an experimental, were diagnosed with either Asperger syndrome or autism. The program comprised of five sections that incorporated asking the user to select the correct emotion out of four options explaining photographed facial expressions, events or situations, and descriptive captions and objects. Contrasted to the control group, the experimental group showed improvement in their ability to recognize emotions in tale and cartooned circumstances that triggered an emotional response, but not in their recognition of emotion in pictures (facial expressions), on which both intervention and control groups demonstrated improvement.


Participants: Two girls who represented 25% and six boys who represented 75%, ages 8 through 12 took part in the study. All partakers were European American who had a formal diagnosis of Asperger syndrome. All participants were diagnosed using criteria from either the Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders or the Diagnostic (Capps, Yirmiya, and Sigman, 1992), and a psychologist rendered a diagnosis separately to each partaker. Diagnoses were confirmed using the Asperger Syndrome Diagnostic Scale, a 50 item survey intended to determine the possibility of a kid between the ages of 5 and 18 having Asperger Syndrome. Partakers' mean Asperger syndrome quotient score on the completed measure was SD = 16.10 (111.87), verifying the earlier given diagnoses of AS. On the ASDS, an ASQ of 90 or above indicates that one is likely to have Asperger Syndrome, whereas a score of 112 or higher suggests Asperger Syndrome is extremely likely.


Pre intervention and post intervention estimations were done in a staff office situated on a campus (suburban) of a major mid western university. All partakers were tested separately. The intervention was done either in a home or a school setting. Of those who took part in school, two students went to a private school for students with learning disabilities while the third went to a public elementary school. All students used IBM or IBM compatible computers in their classrooms or homes.


The study used a non comparable pretest posttest investigational group design. Before the students commenced the intervention phase, they finished the emotion recognition pretest. After 10 weeks of the intervention phase, they finished the emotion recognition posttest.


The following four instruments were used to educate students with autism. The first three were used during testing phase, the fourth during the intervention phase.

Cambridge Mindreading Face Voice Battery for Children: The Cambridge Mindreading Face Voice Battery for Children evaluated the identification of 15 emotional notions from speech segment audio clips and facial expression video taken from Mind Reading. After every clip was shown, partakers were requested to select which of the four emotion words best explained how the person in the clip felt. The CAM-C reviewed the recognition of six essential emotions (sad, happy, angry, disgusted, afraid, and surprised) and nine complex emotions (embarrassed, loving, undecided, bothered, unfriendly, nervous, amused, disappointed, and jealous).

Child Feature-Based Auditory Task: The Child Feature- Based Auditory Task (Golan, 2006) tested partakers' ability to identify complex emotions using 17 speech sections. As with the CAM-C, partakers were requested for each item to decide one of four words that best explained how the speaker felt. It is a generalization duty that tests for voices that were not incorporated in the Mind Reading software.

Reading the Mind in Films Test-Children's Version: The Reading the Mind in Films Test-Children's Version (Hillier and Allinson 2002) tested partakers' ability to identify emotions in characters in short social sights taken from four kid's movies. This duty consisted of 22 examples. Each scene comprised of vocal, visual and some contextual information. Partakers were asked to decide one out of four emotion words that best explains the way the target character felt at the end of the scene.

Mind Reading: The Mind Reading software (Forster and Forster2003), which served as the variable on its own, comprised of a number of components, including learning center, emotions library, and games zone. Emotions library is a catalogue of over 450 distinct emotions for interacting and viewing. Emotions are presented independently in short movie clips, photographs, and audio clips and are showed through contextual examples. Users can access lessons and quizzes, emotions in groups, voices, matching faces, and labels for the distinct emotions in the learning center. In addition they can access the "top 100" or "beginners' 20" choice of the common emotions, of which quizzes and lessons are accessible through the learning center. A system of rewards (birds, trains, musical instruments) serves as an incentive all through quizzes and lessons. Lastly, the games zone is an inspiriting area with five distinct options of interactive games that engage skills such as estimating without calculations/ measurement the emotions on a partly uncovered face, assessing real world faces and matching emotions. The software has six levels of complexity, and a character helper assists the user along the way. Users can create a sticker album of emotions that they may access to study further emotions.


The C-FAT and CAM-C were managed in random order and students were permitted to take as more breaks as they required. Majority of the partakers took at least two short breaks to take a short walk or drink water. One of the students did not take any break and two required more than 10 short breaks to finish testing.

The CAM-C face recognition subtest showed items at random, so only one variant was required. The C-FAT task and the CAM-C voice recognition subtest had two versions; one was used at pre- and the other was used at post intervention. The version used at pre intervention and post intervention was randomized across partakers. The RMF-C task had only one version, which was presented at post intervention to shun improvement due to acquaintance with the scenes.

At some stage in the assessment, either the first author or a master's student interviewed parents, using an informal review that asked questions regarding their kid's capability to recognize emotions. Subsequent to all three tests that were accomplished, the first author gave a display of the Mind Reading software to parents and students, demonstrating to them the installation procedure of the program, uses and the features in it. This demonstration was as well given to school staff educating students using the software. The limits for its use were as well explained. Teachers and parents were shown how to use the Mind Reading manager, which permits the teacher or parent to monitor the kid's work and to alter different settings, such as complex levels, to screen out emotions meant for adults (from the "romantic" emotion group), and so on.

Lastly, parents were told the procedure of sending usage data, documented by the software, back to the researcher's center 10 weeks after the training. The Mind Reading computer software was used by each partaker during the intervention for the period of 10 weeks. Students were instructed to use the games zone for no more than 34% of the total time that they were using the software; this was to ensure that quizzes and lessons were taken). Other than these limitations, students were allowed to navigate freely and use the program that best suits their preferences and learning style.

During the 10 week intervention, researchers called on the partakers in the home setting to check on their improvement, answer questions, and assist solve any problems. A researcher visited the school partakers in their classrooms every 3 weeks to conduct the same type of monitoring. After each partaker had used the software for 10 weeks, a post intervention appraisal was scheduled. The setting and procedure for posttest were the same to those of pre intervention appraisal, apart from another test, the RMF-C, which was also used.

After testing, each kid and his or her parent were interviewed using product reviews and social validity. To end with, they received the software to keep, in addition a small token of appreciation from the project staff. Parents of the kids in the home setting e-mailed all data logs that contained student performance on the computer software to the researcher's center. For the partakers in the school settings, the researcher had to download and save all their data logs straight from the school computers.


Mind Reading is a new tool that is promising for teaching ER (emotion recognition) to individuals with Asperger syndrome. That is, children with Asperger syndrome showed improved in their recognition of complex and basic emotions in voices and faces following a time limited, computer based intervention. This was found not only on voice and face emotion recognition tasks presenting voices and faces incorporated in the software but as well on voices that were not incorporated in the software, signifying that partakers could generalize their emotion recognition abilities. Mind Reading functions as effectively with American users as it does with British ones. Nevertheless, the lack of distinction on the integrative RMF-C task sandwiched between software users in the present study and partakers with autism spectrum conditions who got no intervention in the UK study implies that the use of Mind Reading, at least for this phase of time, only contributed to the emotion recognition skills in voices and faces independently, not to integrative E. In this view, Mind Reading appears to be acknowledged. Then again, although all teachers and parents agreed that emotion recognition was an essential social goal to boost, the findings recommended only limited increases in emotion recognition.