Digital worlds can help autistic children to develop social skills

Researchers on the Echoes Project have developed an interactive virtual world, which, using multi-screen technology, allows children with autism to experiment with different social scenarios without the risks of the real world.

In this virtual environment, primary school children can play with characters that demonstrate gestures and show the actions in real world time. This gives the teachers and researchers the opportunity to observe their behaviours and compare their reactions on screen to their actions in the real world.

Early indications are that some children are demonstrating a better quality of interaction within this type of environment. This is enabling them to manage their own behaviour more effectively and can begin to follow a character’s gaze or pointed finger, and thus develop skills vital for good communication and effective learning.

Some autistic children have a particular affinity with computers, and this programme can help them develop social skills that they would normally find difficult to develop. In the longer term, this sort of programme could help children with autism tap into talents in new and unexpected ways.

Source: Economic and Social Research Council

Also: Festival of Social Science

Also: Echoes Project


Click here for more research reports on possible treatments for autism


First Published in October 2011

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