TANGRAM QUESTS: A TABLET ADVENTURE GAME ASSISTING CHILDREN WITH HIGH FUNCTIONING AUTISM TO ENHANCE THEIR COMMUNICATIVE AND SOCIAL SKILLS
1 Technical University of Crete (GREECE)
2 Primary Education (GREECE)
3 University of Crete (GREECE)
About this paper:
Conference name: 7th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 6-8 July, 2015
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Children with High-functioning Autism (HFA) have intelligence and language within the normal range of functioning, but present social skills deficits such as problems initiating social interactions, difficulty interpreting both verbal/non-verbal social cues, difficulty in anticipation of their turn and lack of empathy to others’ distress. Most computer-based interventions for autism are designed for a single user (Hetzroni & Tannous, 2004). It is challenging to investigate whether a collaborative game on a single touchscreen device can help children between 6-11 of reduced social skills to collaborate with ‘special peers’, pursuing enjoyment and enhancing their social skills (Van Veen et al, 2009).
Innovative contribution of the tool presented is based on the following:
(a) continuing interactive process with an adult, caregiver, expert, or “special” friend (child) ensuring a structured supervising procedure, more effective in generalizing the acquired skills,
(b) close association between the real and the virtual social environment, with degrees of liberty of imagination and improvisation, depending on the child’s case/diagnosis,
(c) social skill and emotional intelligence perspective,
(d) possibility to alternate and focus on a wide spectrum/variety of levels difficulties, based on child’s capacity/quality of functioning.
Tangram Quests is a two-player adventure game that motivates a child with HFA to collaborate with a ‘special partner’ (a child of no syndrome or a caregiver) in order to solve a mystery as a team, overcome collaborative challenges and discover a hidden treasure. The game is designed on a touch screen split in two offering dedicated space for each player. The digital narrative, the tangram quests and mysteries that players must crack lead to an entertaining game, based, unlike most games for HFA, on treatment methods for children with HFA such as social stories and Student Support Team interventions. The game goals include prompting children to play in groups participating in a collaborative commitment process, waiting for their turn, controlling their behavior in the classroom, avoiding stereotypical involvement and recognizing others’ feelings. The tasks cannot be completed without their collaboration on a screen split in two. During the design phase, the storyboards were presented to pedagogues qualified in the field of special education as well as parents of children diagnosed with HFA. When the screen is split in two, one part of the screen is activated at a time for turn-taking, as opposed to enforced collaboration previously applied (Battochi et al., 2009).
Results from a pilot evaluation program will be presented and discussed.
Keywords: High-functioning Autism (HFA), Tablet Adventure Game, Communication Skills.