Using Online Learning Technology to Improve Social Skills for Individuals With Autism

COIL is proud to have supported the Using Online Learning Technology to Improve Social Skills for Individuals With Autism project through our Research Initiation Grant Program.

Abstract:

Individuals with autism have difficulties interacting in the social world. Unfortunately, interventions designed to improve social skills have had limited success. A new online technology that is gaining empirical support for enhancing learning in many domains involves the use of video game mechanics to create “serious games”. We propose that this technology may be especially useful for helping individuals with autism learn about and develop social skills because they can learn to practice new skills in engaging online contexts, without requiring face-to-face interactions with highly trained clinical personnel (e.g., the current model, which is expensive and not accessible to many individuals with autism). To this end, we will develop a “serious game” to scaffold learning of social skills for adolescents with autism, with particular emphasis on learning to use eye gaze information to solve problems in social contexts. We will use this funding to design and pilot test the game in adolescents with autism in their own homes via an online portal. We hypothesize that this online learning technology will help adolescents with autism develop more natural social skills and generalize their knowledge to real-world social settings, which may also improve their academic and vocational potential.

Team:

  • K. Suzanne Scherf, Assistant Professor of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, Penn State University Park
  • Elisabeth Whyte, Post-doctoral Fellow, Department of Psychology, College of Liberal Arts, Penn State University Park
  • Joshua Smyth, Professor of Biobehavioral Health and Medicine, College of Health and Human Development, Penn State University Park
  • Marcela Borge (Consultant), Senior Research Associate and Instructor, Center for Online Innovation in Learning, College of Information Sciences and Technology, Penn State University Park
  • Patrick Dawson (Consultant), Lead Software Engineer for World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment 

Contact:

Suzy Scherf HeadshotK. Suzanne Scherf
Department of Psychology
113 Moore Building
University Park, PA 16802
kss23@psu.edu
(814) 867-2921

 

 


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