Avatar Assistant: Improving Social Skills in Students with an ASD Through a Computer-Based Intervention

Department of Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1300 University Blvd., CH 328, Birmingham, AL 35924-1170, USA.
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders (Impact Factor: 3.06). 02/2011; 41(11):1543-55. DOI: 10.1007/s10803-011-1179-z
Source: PubMed


This study assessed the efficacy of FaceSay, a computer-based social skills training program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). This randomized controlled study (N = 49) indicates that providing children with low-functioning autism (LFA) and high functioning autism (HFA) opportunities to practice attending to eye gaze, discriminating facial expressions and recognizing faces and emotions in FaceSay's structured environment with interactive, realistic avatar assistants improved their social skills abilities. The children with LFA demonstrated improvements in two areas of the intervention: emotion recognition and social interactions. The children with HFA demonstrated improvements in all three areas: facial recognition, emotion recognition, and social interactions. These findings, particularly the measured improvements to social interactions in a natural environment, are encouraging.

    • "For example , Kelemen et al. (2014) found that by using picture books as a scaffold, 5–8 year old TD children were able to learn very difficult concepts pertaining to within-species adaptation by natural selection. Similarly, avatars and animated characters have been successfully used in social skills interventions for children with HFASD to improve emotional understanding (Beaumont and Sofronoff 2008; Hopkins et al. 2011) and social engagement (Radley et al. 2014). It may be that individuals with ASD, having a bias towards visual rather than verbal information (Kunda and Goel 2011), are especially in need of, and responsive to, information provided visually. "
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    ABSTRACT: The present study examines the efficacy of a social skills and Theory of Mind (S.S.ToM) intervention for children with high-functioning ASD. Children were taught to identify and consider their peer's mental states, e.g., knowledge, emotions, desires, beliefs, intentions, likes and dislikes, while learning friendship-making skills and strategies, through the use of visual scaffolds in story format. Compared to two control groups, S.S.ToM participants demonstrated significantly greater gains on measures of Theory of Mind and social responsiveness. At a 3-month follow-up assessment, improvements appeared to have been maintained and continued gains were observed. These results provide support for the utility of a visually supported Theory of Mind and social skills intervention that may be delivered in community settings.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 05/2015; DOI:10.1007/s10803-015-2459-9 · 3.06 Impact Factor
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    • "Given that this is the first RCT of MR and this protocol, replication studies are needed. Ongoing research should continue to study CBI in narrowly defined groups as efficacy may differ based on functional level (Hopkins et al. 2011; Ploog et al. 2013). Future studies may want to compare supervised MR administration versus independent use, evaluate the efficacy of MR as a component in a comprehensive psychosocial treatment, or assess characteristics of treatment responders. "
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    ABSTRACT: This randomized controlled trial evaluated the efficacy of a computer software (i.e., Mind Reading) and in vivo rehearsal treatment on the emotion decoding and encoding skills, autism symptoms, and social skills of 43 children, ages 7–12 years with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder (HFASD). Children in treatment (n = 22) received the manualized protocol over 12 weeks. Primary analyses indicated significantly better posttest performance for the treatment group (compared to controls) on 3 of the 4 measures of emotion decoding and encoding and these were maintained at 5-week follow-up. Analyses of secondary measures favored the treatment group for 1 of the 2 measures; specifically, ASD symptoms were significantly lower at posttest and follow-up.
    Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders 02/2015; 45(7). DOI:10.1007/s10803-015-2374-0 · 3.34 Impact Factor
    • "toward parents and the client would be essential . It is too early to draw conclusions on treatment issues in ASD . However , recently , it was shown that enhanc - ing FR and IFE were crucial factors in the improvement of social skills of children with ASD using FaceSay , a computer - based social skills training program for chil - dren with ASD [ Hopkins et al . , 2011 ] ."
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    ABSTRACT: Limited accuracy and speed in facial recognition (FR) and in the identification of facial emotions (IFE) have been shown in autism spectrum disorders (ASD). This study aimed at evaluating the predictive value of atypicalities in FR and IFE for future symptom severity in children with ASD. Therefore we performed a seven-year follow-up study in 87 children with ASD. FR and IFE were assessed in childhood (T1: age 6-12) using the Amsterdam Neuropsychological Tasks (ANT). Symptom severity was assessed using the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) in childhood and again seven years later during adolescence (T2: age 12-19). Multiple regression analyses were performed to investigate whether FR and IFE in childhood predicted ASD symptom severity in adolescence, while controlling for ASD symptom severity in childhood. We found that more accurate FR significantly predicted lower adolescent ASD symptom severity scores (ΔR(2) = .09), even when controlling for childhood ASD symptom severity. IFE was not a significant predictor of ASD symptom severity in adolescence. From these results it can be concluded, that in children with ASD the accuracy of FR in childhood is a relevant predictor of ASD symptom severity in adolescence. Test results on FR in children with ASD may have prognostic value regarding later symptom severity. Autism Res 2015. © 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc. © 2015 International Society for Autism Research, Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
    Autism Research 01/2015; 8(3). DOI:10.1002/aur.1443 · 4.33 Impact Factor
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