One of the characteristics of autism is the struggle to make and maintain eye contact. That challenge is part of a broader difficulty that autistic children have with social skills. Health care professionals have various ways to help autistic children connect with the world. Samsung is trying to do it with game-based learning.
Mobile apps and games help children learn and practice communications skills, Techcrunch explains. Samsung has developed a mobile app that offers a series of games, as well as photos and facial recognition software, to try to engage the mind and the eyes of an autistic child. Appropriately, the Samsung app is called Look At Me.
In one of the app’s games, faces of people have small dots over each person’s eyes. To play this game, the child must identify which person’s face appears in the dot from a selection of faces. Samsung says this game also teaches facial recognition by encouraging the child to focus on a person’s eyes.
Another Look At Me game tries to help autistic children recognize emotions. This game asks the child to discern between happy and sad from the lineup of faces presented. Each time the child chooses correctly, the child receives points. That reward encourages the child to keep playing and keep improving.
Samsung has put science behind the app. Look At Me was developed by doctors and professors from Seoul National University Bundag Hospital and Yonsei University Department of Psychology, according to TechCrunch. In a clinical trial consisting of 20 children, the researchers say that 60 percent of trial participants showed improvement in making eye contact.
Rhiannon Walton, a speech and language therapist, incorporates technology in her therapy sessions with children. She told London’s Daily Mail that the predictability of technology is particularly suited to the way autistic children learn. When you press a button, technology responds the same way every time, which is welcomed by autistic children. Unpredictability can confuse and even scare them, she said. There’s another reason that games and apps are so effective for children. Autistic children communicate visually, so they also best learn visually. Apps are very visual, making them particularly effective teaching tools, she said. Technology won’t cure autism. But the new Samsung app shows how gamification can offer new ways to help autistic children learn.
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