Over the last years, there has been an immense increase in the frequency of autism disorders. According to a recent US study, one in 50 children (!) is diagnosed as having some form of autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These children’s imperative need for education and independence is more prevalent than ever before. These children are required to develop operational skills that can be provided by the tools offered by technology. Our scientific team asks for your support in developing the first educational application for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD): a virtual reality game, that with scientific methods, can assist these children to experience their own “ WALK IN THE MALL”.
For many people with ASD, daily challenges can cause confusion which in turn creates obstacles in their relationships and social or professional objectives. It is impossible or highly challenging for them to read facial expressions so therefore they are not aware of how to respond.
Research studies, such as those carried out at Newcastle University, Texas Dallas, BrainHealth Center of Yale University, have revealed that children with ASD (boys aged 8 to 15 years old), present significant improvement in acquiring skills via interactive teaching methods that use games created in virtual environments. Virtual reality technology also can help people with operational autism with social attention issues.
The educational game “TAKING A WALK IN THE MALL” places an emphasis on human communication / interaction in both natural and semi-structured gaming activities that have a wide range of objectives i.e. one can greet, ask for something, select, express feelings, protest etc. The objectives offered to the player are designed to stimulate his/her development and aim at verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.
This application is a synergistic educational tool, in which families and instructors can work together with the player in order to determine the game’s skill level.
By using virtual reality, this application provides the possibility to players to respond to discreet tests that are guided by the family or instructor. It also offers the player the ability to communicate without guidance and to take initiative in making purchases.
Virtual reality technology uses natural activities in a variety of social situations as well as semi-structured teaching of social routines. It also provides incidental teaching based on visual techniques (images, animated images, icons) that will reinforce social communication and emotional regulation.
The application mainly aims at helping people with operational autism to develop learning skills and operational skill applications in a variety of situations.
All of the games’ heroes and challenges – including the players themselves, their instructors and members of their close and wider environment – all play a potentially important role for the development of the person belonging to the spectrum of operational autism. It appears that activities that specify objectives and required results include daily routines as well as activities that are carried out in a mall. These aim at reinforcing skills , autonomy and self-help abilities, with a significant emphasis on social interaction and emotional regulation.
This educational application helps people with ASD to regulate their emotions throughout the day and while serving their basic needs.
For example, in the game, a person with ASD has 10 euros and wants to buy a sandwich and a ball. The players need to prioritize their needs according to the amount of money they have and complete their purchases in the mall. This is a complex task that requires the player’s active participation. It has been proven that more can be accomplished with the use of images, words and/or gestures.
The game, with the use of advanced technology, offers opportunities for sensory and mobile activities. The objective is for strategies to emerge that will engage the players in important daily activities reinforce learning, create positive relationships and successful social experiences.
The development of this educational game was based on the SCERTS Model that was created by Barry Prizant, Amy Wetherby, Emily Rubin, Amy Laurent and Patrick Rydell, a multidisciplinary team of medics, researchers and instructors, having over a 100 years of experience together numerous and extensive publications in the field of autism.
We selected this model as more suitable as it does not have an exclusive approach but offers a framework that joins a variety operational and strategic approach. Education ‘joins’ with the game in order to reinforce positive behaviours (ABA), visual and sensory perception and alternative forms of communication (AAC) via daily activities such as the completion of daily tasks and more specifically making purchases.
We initiated our effort based on the research made by the aforementioned centers and we continued by performing a research study designed with the assistance of Katerina Georgopoulou (psychologist – specialist instructor) and with the coordination and implementation carried out in various specialist schools by the researcher Helena Pavlaki. This effort resulted in the creation of the educational application “TAKING A WALK IN THE MALL”.
The work team is composed of :
Thousands of children experience a different reality.
A breath of hope could be materialized through our project by your active support in helping us to purchase specialist equipment and to develop part of the graphics.
The amount required is 5000 euro.
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