The learning content is presented in an appealing way as part of a closed, safe and private social app that includes:A child app
THE LEARNING PROGRAM
The program was created using a spiral development process that included teams of researchers from relevant fields, such as emotion perception, developmental psychology, human-machine interaction, and autism.
Stimuli such as images, sound and video clips are used in the lessons, activities and games to enhance generalization. All the stimuli were created and validated by research teams.
Strict scientific methodology was used to make sure that the visual and auditory "clues" are primary indicators of the emotions being taught.
The child works with an adult mediator (the “personal trainer”) who can be a therapist, a teacher or a parent. Together they engage in interactive as well as hands-on tasks to enhance emotion recognition and understanding, theory of mind abilities, and generalization.
INVOLVEMENT OF CHILDREN WITH AUTISM AND THEIR FAMILIES
Children with autism and their families were part of the development process and played a major role in content selection, UI design, system usability and much more. The process was aimed at ensuring that the system and content will optimally serve the needs of the target audience, namely highly functioning children with autism, aged 4-11.
The effectiveness of the learning content was tested on groups of autistic children. The results indicated that using the system significantly improved their emotion recognition abilities as well as general socio-emotional indicators.
"My son never talked about emotions. When angry or distressed, he would throw himself on the floor or even knock his head against it. After learning about "anger" in the program, he came back from school one day and instead of those "autistic" behaviors, he told me: I'm angry. A few days later he said to me: "I love you" for the first time.
“T was very excited about “researching emotions” in the program. After a while he started to make observations about people, using the terminology and clues taught in the program, and I was amazed to realize that he is actually using them to interpret what other people around him feel.”
“I was pleased to hear from H’s teacher that the program was a subject of conversation between H and his friends at school. H would show the tasks to his friends in order to share his experiences – something he never did before. He even began to ask his friends at school about their emotions.”
Clinical Research – It’s effective!
Clinical trials were conducted among autistic children as part of the EU project in order to clinically evaluate the effectiveness of exposing them to the program content. Significant improvement was found in the children’s ability to recognize emotions in all three modalities: face, voice and body. Furthermore, the results confirmed the program’s substantial effects on their general social skills.
The program is based on the outcomes of a 3-year $2.5M EU-funded collaborative effort by technology and research organizations across Europe and Israel (EU project ASC-Inclusion). The effort was led by some of the top autism researchers, including Prof. Simon Baron-Cohen (Cambridge University), Prof. Sven Bölte (Karolinska Institute), and Dr. Ofer Golan (Bar Ilan University), together with the Autism-Europe organization and additional technology and autism experts.
WHO AND HOW?
The participants were 120 children with autism, aged 5-10, and their parents, in four locations: UK, Sweden, Israel, and Poland. Two groups were defined: a treatment group who used the program and a control group who did not. The two groups were tested before and after the trial period and compared according to various parameters.
RESULTS AND CONCLUSIONS - SYSTEM AND PROGRAM EFFECTIVENESS
The results showed that children with autism improved on emotion recognition and socialization after taking the intervention, suggesting the intervention was effective in helping children learn socio-emotional skills.
Those results echo the feedback from the parents in the intervention group:
78.9% of the parents noticed a positive change in their child’s behavior and emotion-related abilities.
95.2% of the parents said they would recommend EmotiPlay’s program to other families.
Parents and children also provided valuable suggestions to further improve the environment, which have been adopted in the new version of the program.