M.I. Santos, T. Ribeiro, A. Breda, A.M. Almeida

University of Aveiro (PORTUGAL)
Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are considered as one of the disorders that cause greater challenge to both educational and health professionals, given their repercussions in social interaction and communication and considering that children with ASD also present repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities, characteristics that can compromise personal and social autonomy in the various contexts.

The use of Information and Communication Technologies could be an effective way to create innovative learning opportunities to these children and to develop creative, personalized and constructive environments, where they can develop differentiated skills. Learning Environment on Mathematics for Autistic Children (LEMA) is a web based classroom application based on a digital mathematical learning environment with modalities of adaptation and dynamic personalization of activities. These activities were designed enabling its adaptation to the profile of each user, aiming to promote the development of mathematical reasoning in children between 6 and 12 years old and fostering access and equity to teaching and learning processes.

A primary evaluation with end-users was already conducted focusing on “interaction”, “execution of the activities” and “motivation”. This primary evaluation was made through direct observations of different sessions with 4 students with ASD and enabled that collection of important data that pinpointed the need to made some changes in the environment:
(1) redesign the interface and the activities in order to better motivate the users;
(2) parcel out the complex mathematical problems into simple tasks;
(3) incorporate feedback tutorials with step-by-step clues;
(4) incorporate reinforcement feedbacks;
(5) incorporate audio instructions; and
(6) restructure the instructions to support the human-computer-interaction.

In this paper the readjustments on LEMA’s interface (conducted in the context of the above mentioned primary evaluation results) are presented, namely considering the new dimension of gamification and the application of game-design elements and game principles in non-game contexts, as a form of enhancing the user’ motivation.

For a more effective assimilation of the mathematical content, various types of feedback (visual and sound) are used, applying schemes and animations, and in different moments: before, during and after the execution of the activities. Using instructional design principles (practice of creating instructional experiences, which make the acquisition of knowledge and skills more efficient, effective, and appealing) the proposed interface seeks to maximize working memory training in enabling the students to memorize the contents in the long-term memory. All iconographic aspects were designed in a simple and minimalist approach taking into account the public and trying to maximise their learning.

The selection of words and phrases was done in order to create familiar instructions to the target audience, avoiding the use of scientific jargon and technical language. Specific mathematical language is used when necessary, but every specific concept is appropriately explained using audio, text and animations. The interface accommodates both experienced and inexperienced users, being the activities for a new one more simple than the ones displayed for the experienced students.