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A virtual tutor for children with autism

Herring, P.J.; Kear, Karen; Sheehy, Kieron and Jones, Roger (2017). A virtual tutor for children with autism. Journal of Assistive Technologies, 11(1) pp. 19–27.

URL: https://doi.org/10.1108/JET-01-2016-0006
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Abstract

Purpose:
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is an established communication intervention for non-verbal children with autism. This paper presents an evaluation of a computer based PECS approach, in which young non-verbal children with autism respond to an on-screen ‘virtual tutor’ through the manipulation of picture/symbol cards. The paper presents research to investigate how the virtual tutor’s voice influences the children’s participation and performance.

Design/Methodology/Approach:
Eight non-verbal children between 6 and 9 years old and with a diagnosis of autism were each presented with a series of computer-based activities, using a virtual tutor with either a natural or synthetic voice, in two separate sessions. Data was gathered using a within-participants counterbalanced design to control against variations between individuals and effects of presentation order.

Findings:
Analysis of the children’s responses suggest they were able to use the system more effectively when the virtual tutor had a synthetic voice, rather than a human voice. The findings demonstrate that a computer-based virtual tutor can provide an engaging method of supporting symbol-based communication for non-verbal children with autism, and that a synthetic voice type was preferable for the sessions undertaken.

Value:
Investigations of voice type and its influence on non-verbal children’s participation and performance have so far provided inconclusive results (Ramdoss 2013). This research suggests that voice type is an important feature of the learning experience of non-verbal children with autism, and can have a significant influence on their participation and performance in virtual tutor-led learning.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2016 Emerald
Keywords: autism; Autistic Spectrum Disorder; virtual tutor; Picture Exchange Communication System; Computer Assisted Learning; non-verbal children
Academic Unit/School: Other Departments > Communications
Other Departments
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) > Computing and Communications
Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Childhood Studies
Item ID: 46706
Depositing User: Karen Kear
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2016 08:52
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2017 18:07
URI: http://oro.open.ac.uk/id/eprint/46706
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