Let's Face It! 2.0: Training the dynamics of facial expressions for children with ASD
University of Victoria
Most people are “face experts” – able to accurately identify a familiar face and interpret a facial expression in a single glance. However, individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often have problems producing and perceiving facial expressions. If people with ASD have facial processing difficulties, it is not surprising that they would struggle in their everyday, social interactions. For this project, the investigators will develop an innovative training program (Let’s Face It! 2.0) that is intended to teach expression recognition skills to children with ASD. The Let’s Face It! program will employ the Computer Expression Recognition Toolbox (CERT). CERT is a state-of-the-art technology that recognizes facial expressions in real time via a laptop camera. The goal is to design and test an entertaining face training program intended to teach children with ASD to accurately produce and perceive dynamic facial expressions. There are three phases to the research proposal: assessment, game design and pilot implementation. In the Assessment Phase, the investigators will develop a dynamic test battery that will assess a child’s ability to produce basic facial expressions, like happy, sad and angry. The quality of the child’s expression will be quantified with the CERT program. The assessment will also include perceptual tests that will measure the child’s ability to recognize realistic video expressions. In the Game Design phase, we will create a series of computer games that will train the child in the production and perception of facial expressions. To keep the child’s interest and motivation, the games will be entertaining, interactive and positively reinforcing. For example, in the Face-Face-Revolution game, the child mimics face expressions in time to a musical track and receives tokens for each correct expression that they produce. In the Implementation Phase of the project, a pilot intervention will be conducted to test the potential effectiveness of the Let’s Face It program. For the intervention, children will play the Let’s Face It games at home for one week. It is predicted that children will show improvement in the face production and perception skills as measured by their performance on the dynamic test battery. The ultimate goal of the research is to develop, implement and assess an computer-based, cost-effective program that teaches real-time production and perception of facial expressions to children with ASD.