In “Can science-based video games help kids with autism?”, Sarah Deweerdt introduced Jeanne Townsend and Leanne Chukoskie, who work hard to develop video games that help children with autism. Games may improve a range of abilities such as balance, attention and gaze control, and researchers are working to prove these improvements can be translated into real-life benefits.
There is a finding that kids with autism are especially drawn to technology, so professors and researchers want to design interventions to help them. The current situation is that there are more than 700 apps designed for people with autism, but “only around 5 percent of those have scientific data backing their effectiveness”. Also, since the gaming industry is changing fast, some games from research labs cannot be competitive with others, and some of them may poorly built and maintained.
According to Sarah, some researchers focused on problems with attention and designed a game to train control of eye movement, others focused on balance, designing exercise programs. Thanks to the advancement of technology and virtual reality, researchers can design the training for complex social behaviors. An example raised is “Bob’s Fish Shop”, which the system allowed for simulating whole interactions, and players can be trained by interacting with the owner of a pet store, interpreting his gestures and following his gaze to build joint-attention skills. In order to prevent people spending too much time, training program was introduced instead of gaming. “Project:EVO” is designed with graphics at the level of a video game, but different in timed and rewarded way, aimed to “keep children engaged but not addicted”.Most of these games and programs are tested by studies and proved that they can improve the behavior of children with autism in an effective way.
There are two things in the article made me feel impressive. One is that researchers try to gamify some of the in-lab assessments, and this would provide objective measures for schools and parents to track children’s progress. I think that provides a lot of convenience and makes adults to better understand and help the kids. Also, the lab’s internship program, which provide a safe and supportive space for young adults to learn the unwritten rules of the workplace and master skills, and I think that worth applying to a large scale.