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.

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    • "To date, the vast majority of systems that examine emotional abilities, including experimental studies, do so directly. That is, these systems are typically created to test specific aspects of emotional function, such as recognition of emotions in faces [6], [7], congruency of relationships among emotional conveyances and social or environmental contexts [15], [16], or the valence of emotions along multiple modalities [17]. Less explored are systems that examine unprompted, volitional preferences for emotional information. "
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