Computerized Interventions to Promote Verbal Expression in Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders
This project was a collaborative effort between Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Media Laboratory (ML)-an interdisciplinary research lab at the forefront of creating new technologies for improving the human experience, and the Groden Center, Inc.-a non-profit school in Providence, RI that provides community-based, evaluative, therapeutic, and educational programs for children and adults with ASD-to develop computerized intervention technologies that assist individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in understanding and producing verbal expressions that carry much of the communicative and emotional information in language. The intervention consisted of two innovative technology components: (1) a wearable speech recorder that integrates with a wearable camera to record faces and speech in dyadic interactions, and (2) an interactive, computerized game that facilitates the visualization, and manipulation of speech characteristics, as well as conversational dynamics. The interactive game extracts and maps speech characteristics to alternative sensory channels such as visual or auditory feedback, catering to the visual and auditory strengths of persons with ASD. This yearlong research plan consisted of the following three aims: (1) Collecting a speech corpus documenting dyadic conversations between 10 individuals with ASD at the Groden Center and their staff members; (2) Applying and extending speech-feature extraction and classification toolkits to the speech corpus of individuals with ASD; (3) Conducting participatory and experimental evaluation sessions with 10 students at the Groden Center, their teachers, parents, and speech-language therapists to iteratively test and refine the wearable and interactive, computerized toolkit. This project aimed to improve social communication capacities of persons with ASD, as well as enable speech-language therapists, teachers, and parents to assess and teach verbal expression in a novel and fun way that is individually-tailored for each person’s interest, sensory, and perceptual capabilities.
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