January 19, 2015

Back in December, Samsung launched ‘Look at Me’ the interactive camera app for children with autism. More can be read on their website here. We also covered this story, and again this can be read here.

The Samsung website states:

“[The Look at Me Project is] designed to create a shared community to connect families with similar experiences. This project hopes to facilitate meaningful connections between parents, caregivers, and their children, as well as to foster connections between the 200 families selected.”

The video below gives some idea to what the app is all about.

Underneath the video there are many varied comments that have been made including the following:

‘Hi. Excuse me while I wave this phone in front of your face because I have autism and can’t properly make eye contact. Oh, you feel uncomfortable? Well at least I’m indirectly making eye contact now, right? In no way is it this kid or any other person with autism’s fault. This is just a terrible solution.’
 ‘maybe it’s ok that he can’t make eye contact. seriously.’
‘I have an autistic brother. I KNOW what it’s like growing up with the obstacles he faces on a day to day basis. Ironically, he’s amazing at using my mother’s iphone but greatly lacks social skills. It’s out of our control, so for a company to develop an app that allows autistic children the opportunity to excel, thank you. It’s nice to know there are people out there using vast amounts of creative ideas to help children such as my little 3 year old brother! Thank you!!! :)’

‘Week done Samsung , thanks for thinking of those people with Autism and coming with a solution. Its the first step that counts the most.’

Now, to be perfectly honest, I would have to say that I agree with the first two above comments. This app, and in particular the above short video, make me feel very uneasy. I watched that video as a parent of a young boy with ASD. The very first thing that struck me was the music, all played in a minor key, now this is more a marketing strategy, I know, as it is meant to pull on the old heartstrings, but this made me uneasy. It was as if the people behind it were shouting,

as a mother of an autistic child, you need this app, look how sad your life is as your child does not make eye contact.

So, this instantly made me extremely wary of the product that they have made and are trying to sell.

The second point that instantly riled me was when they stated that the app is a scientifically endorsed treatment. Is this true? I really don’t like the use of the word ‘treatment‘ and that my child has to be treated as he has difficulty maintaining eye contact. More importantly though, do we  really need to make these children make eye contact? Whose benefit is this app for, the children or the caregiver? I am not so sure.

They also tell us that after 8 weeks staring into a camera, that these children can now make eye contact? Will patents now see this as some kind of miracle cure? Samsung need to think very carefully here about what they have made and how they intend to market it.

My view is that we do not need this app. This app will put huge pressure on parents and caregivers and ultimately I feel, lead to false hope. I think we need to educate the world about autism, education and awareness is key. This is needed so that the general public are made awarer that for many individuals on the autistic spectrum eye contact is difficult. These individuals should not be pressurised into making eye contact.

The child on the autism spectrum should not have to change, just in order to fit into our neuro typical world. The world needs to be more accepting.



About the author 

Jo Worgan

Jo Worgan is a published author, writer and blogger. She has a degree in English Literature. She writes about life with her youngest son who is on the autistic spectrum. Jo tweets (@mummyworgan) and is also a freelance columnist for the Lancaster Guardian. ‘My Life with Tom, Living With Autism‘ is her second book and a culmination of her blog posts, and available on Kindle now, along with her first book, Life on the Spectrum. The Preschool years.

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