Enhancing social communication for children with HFA
Weiss, Patrice (Tamar)
University of Haifa
Children with High Functioning Autism (HFA) have the basic verbal ability for creating a story, but often lack the social understanding that is needed for such a task. Moreover, these children often prefer to play alone since they have difficulty in developing appropriate peer relationships and in interacting socially or emotionally with their peers. However, many of these children enjoy using technological devices such as computers since they provide direct and immediate feedback. Based on Dr. Weiss' previous research, partially funded by an Innovative Technology for Autism bridge grant, they hypothesize that running a game on a large “table-top” computer with a touch-screen interface (a computer with a display that is the size and orientation of a small table that allows both users to simultaneously interact with it by touch) that requires children to work together, will retain the advantages of working with a computer, yet facilitate an important dimension, namely communication and interaction with others. The main goal of the proposed study is to examine the effectiveness of a short-term intervention using an “enforced collaboration” paradigm to facilitate social-interactive skills among children with HFA compared to a group that has not received this intervention. The second goal is to examine whether can apply their newly acquired ability to collaborate in other tasks. The third goal is to examine the effectiveness of the Story Table intervention on children's ability to narrate a story after treatment. Finally, if successful, Dr. Weiss' lab will look at ways to bring these activities to less expensive computing platforms. What this means for people with autism: This project targets the skills necessary for children with HFA to have natural social interactions, as well as participate in social environments that could lead to developmental and educational improvement. If successful as an intervention, this project would not only assist in the social development of children with HFA, but also help to reduce their social isolation.