Digital avatars help children with autism – w/video

Ashburn, VA- Michael Mendoza, a nine year old with autism, has his own digital avatar to help him learn. His avatar helps him do things most autistic children can’t do.

He is recording social stories in video form to remind him how to act in certain situations.  Children with autism tend to interact easily with the onscreen avatar. The game world is predictable and not as threatening as real life situations.

University of Michigan software engineering students designed several Kinect games for children on the autism spectrum. David Chesney, the professor who instructed his students to develop several games, states:

 “For kids with autism, there’s a certain social awkwardness and a lack of ability to recognize emotion, and to respond to emotion and verbal cues in an appropriate manner.”

Teachers are now able to incorporate these digital avatars with even the most introverted students. The students show great response to these avatars and one student who had not reacted to any therapy with regard to social interaction began moving his arms in unison with his avatar.

Michael Mendoza is recording social stories on a regular basis helping him cope with social dilemmas. His teachers are showing the videos to his classmates and many are saying that the videos remind them of themselves.

 Source: Greg Toppo on the USA Today website: Video games help autistic students in classrooms