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Wearable Technology Google Glass Teaches Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Google Glass listens to conversations and prompts the user with an appropriate reply

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Google Glass
Google Glass. IANS

Toronto, Sep 16, 2017: An app to be used with wearable technology such as Google Glass — a head-mounted display in the shape of eyeglasses — can coach children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in everyday social interactions, new research has found.

A defining feature of ASD is difficulties with social communication — which can include initiating and maintaining conversations with others.

“We developed software for a wearable system that helps coach children with autism spectrum disorder in everyday social interactions,” said Azadeh Kushki, Assistant Professor at the University of Toronto in Canada.

“In this study, we show that children are able to use this new technology and they enjoy interacting with it,” Kushki added.

Children with autism spectrum disorder are often drawn to technological devices and find them highly motivating tools for delivering interventions designed to help them.

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The problem with existing technology, however, is that using human-to-computer interaction to teach social skills can have the opposite effect to its goal, in that the user becomes socially isolated.

“The interesting thing about our new technology is that we are not trying to replace human-to-human interactions; instead, we use this app to coach children who are communicating with people in real-world situations,” Kushki explained.

“Children can practice their skills outside of their normal therapy sessions and it can provide them with increased independence in everyday interactions,” Kushki added.

Kushki and her colleagues developed the app, named Holli, to be used with wearable technology such as Google Glass. It listens to conversations and prompts the user with an appropriate reply.

For example, if the user is greeted by a person who says ‘Welcome’, Holli will provide various responses to choose from, such as ‘Hey’, ‘Hello’ or ‘Afternoon’.

When Holli recognises the user’s response, the prompts disappear and Holli waits for the next exchange in conversation.

To assess the usability of the prototype software, the researchers asked a small group of children with ASD to be guided by Holli when interacting socially.

They saw that Holli could complete most conversations without error, and that children could follow the prompts to carry on a social interaction.

In fact, Holli was often able to understand what the user was saying before/he she finished saying it, which helped the conversation to flow naturally, the study said.

“This study shows the potential of technology-based intervention to help children with ASD,” Kushki said.

“These systems can be used in everyday settings, such as home and school, to reinforce techniques learned in therapeutic settings,” she added. (IANS)

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Severity of Autism Spectrum Disorder Varies Among Twins: Study

Autism symptoms' severity varies greatly among twins

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Autism
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that affects how a person behaves, interacts with others and learns. Pixabay

Identical twins with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) often experience large differences in symptom severity even though they share the same DNA, researchers from Washington University have found.

The findings, published in the journal Behaviour Genetics, suggest that identifying the causes of this variability may inform the treatment of ASD-related symptoms.

Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that affects how a person behaves, interacts with others and learns.

Previous studies have found that when one identical twin has autism spectrum disorder, spectrum disorder chances are extremely likely that the other twin has it, too.

For the findings, the researchers analysed data from three previous studies comprising a total of 366 identical twin pairs with and without ASD.

Twins autism
Previous studies have found that when one identical twin has autism spectrum disorder, spectrum disorder chances are extremely likely that the other twin has it, too. Pixabay

The severity of autism traits and symptoms in the twins was measured by a clinician’s assessment or by parents’ ratings on a standardised questionnaire.

Some cases were diagnosed by both methods. The researchers determined a 96 per cent chance that if one twin has ASD, the other has it, too.

However, symptom scores varied greatly between twins diagnosed with ASD.

The researchers estimated that genetic factors contributed to only nine per cent of the cause of trait variation among these twins.

In contrast, among pairs of identical twins without ASD, the scores for traits were very similar.

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According to the study, the authors do not know the reasons for differences in symptom severity, but they rule out genetic and most environmental causes because the twins share the same DNA and were raised in the same environment.

Additional studies are needed to determine the cause, the researchers said. (IANS)