Autism Professor creates game to teach interpretation of social cues

Elisabeth Whyte from LinkedIN

Elisabeth Whyte from LinkedIn

UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – Elisabeth Whyte, a postdoctoral research assistant and psychology lecturer at Penn State, is also a gamer.  Her own World of Warcraft podcast has over 15,000 visitors a month.

Whyte states that even though she studies Autism, she is an avid gamer which gives her an advantage to understand game development, create story structure and to make decisions about character behavior.  Her goal is to make her games educational and transferable to everyday life, in such a way that it doesn’t feel like homework.

Suzy Scherf, assistant professor of psychology and lead investigator for the project, works alongside Joshua Smyth, a professor of biobehavioral health and medicine. Together they hope to launch the program/game in a few weeks.

Given the nature of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) which show in social skills and interpersonal reactions, this project is targeting things that are a challenge for those on the spectrum. The ability to make eye contact, interpret  eye contact and process the social behavior that is appropriate, will be one of the focuses of the game.

The game is not based on the traditional collection of rewards. Players who will be aged between 11-18 years, must use directional hints from ‘silent tunnel people’ who point and use eye contact to receive the clues. The player must actively seek out social interactions and interpret the actions in order to move through the maze.

The game is designed so that the teenagers can internalize and make correct social decisions in order to win. “this will allow their abilities and confidence will grow” said Whyte.  This is a big step forward in teaching social cues and interpretation.

The original article by Lauren Ingram on the Penn Sate News website can be read here