Autism and Asperger's in Second Life


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A talk about the potential of virtual worlds for Autism research. Given in Second Life in June 2008.

The views expressed in this presentation are those of the individual Simon Bignell and not University of Derby.

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  • Autism and Asperger's in Second Life

    1. 1. University of Derby Centre for Psychological Research Autism Asperger’s and Second Life Simon Bignell [email_address]
    2. 2. Acknowledgements
    3. 3. Introduction <ul><li>What is Second Life? </li></ul><ul><li>Who uses Second Life? </li></ul><ul><li>The unique properties of Second Life </li></ul><ul><li>Autistic Disorder </li></ul><ul><li>Asperger’s Disorder </li></ul><ul><li>SL-Labs at University of Derby </li></ul><ul><li>Current projects </li></ul><ul><li>Future projects </li></ul><ul><li>The potential of Second Life for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder </li></ul>
    4. 4. <ul><li>USA </li></ul><ul><li>Harvard University </li></ul><ul><li>MIT </li></ul><ul><li>University of Texas </li></ul><ul><li>Francisco State </li></ul><ul><li>New York University </li></ul><ul><li>Vassar College </li></ul><ul><li>Trinity University </li></ul><ul><li>University of Buffalo </li></ul><ul><li>+ many more </li></ul><ul><li>UK </li></ul><ul><li>Oxford University </li></ul><ul><li>Nottingham University </li></ul><ul><li>Staffordshire University </li></ul><ul><li>Leicestershire University </li></ul><ul><li>Paisley University </li></ul><ul><li>+ many more </li></ul>
    5. 5. Introduction <ul><li>In real life I am Simon Bignell </li></ul><ul><li>I am a lecturer in Psychology at University of Derby in the UK. </li></ul><ul><li>I teach a module at Derby University called “Autism, Asperger’s and ADHD”. </li></ul><ul><li>I have been using Second Life for teaching and educational research and more recently looking at Autism and Asperger’s in Second Life. </li></ul>
    6. 7. What is Second Life? <ul><li>‘ Second Life’ is an extremely successful 3D online virtual world, where users can navigate, interact, and view the world through their own customised avatar - a digital representation of themselves. </li></ul><ul><li>Users communicate via typed chat and pre-recorded animations and more recently real-time voice. </li></ul><ul><li>More elaborate animations allow more complex behaviours, such as gestures providing a rich source of non-verbal communicative cues. </li></ul>
    7. 8. What is Second Life? <ul><li>Second Life is a widely acclaimed online 3-D virtual world with hundreds of thousands of users built and owned by its residents. </li></ul><ul><li>Since 2003, it has grown explosively and now is inhabited by millions of people from around the globe. </li></ul>
    8. 9. <ul><li>Statistics </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Total residents: 9,147,000. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avg. approx 50-60K online </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>91 different countries. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>43% female. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Avg. Age 32 years </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Advances of Note </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Currency exchange system. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>530L$ = £1 approx. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Streaming media. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Voice chatting enabled. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Education Discounts. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Off Shoot – Teen Second Life. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Higher public acceptance, especially for education </li></ul></ul>Who uses Second Life?
    9. 10. The unique properties of Second Life <ul><li>Allows anonymous social interaction </li></ul><ul><li>Safe and Secure </li></ul><ul><li>Provides high levels of social interactivity but without complex linguistic and social-behavioural processing necessary for face-to-face conversations. </li></ul><ul><li>Levels the playing field for people with disabilities </li></ul>
    10. 12. <ul><li>The DSM-IV includes five types of disorder under the term ‘ Pervasive Developmental Disorder’ PDD . </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Autistic Disorder*. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Rett’s Disorder. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Childhood Disintegrative Disorder. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Asperger’s Disorder*. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Pervasive Development Disorder Not Otherwise Specified*. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>* Mainly these form the Autistic spectrum ASD. </li></ul>What Is Autism?
    11. 13. What Is Autism? <ul><li>The triad of impairment summarises the difficulties of the autistic child but the actual manifestation of these can vary. </li></ul>Restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour. Impairment in social interaction . Impairment in verbal and non verbal communication.
    12. 14. Autistic Spectrum Disorder. <ul><li>A continuum that… </li></ul><ul><li>“… ranges from the most profoundly physically and mentally retarded person ... to the most able, highly intelligent person with social impairment in its subtlest form as his only disability. It overlaps with learning disabilities and shades into eccentric normality.” </li></ul><ul><li>Lorna wing </li></ul>
    13. 15. What Is Asperger’s Disorder? <ul><li>The triad of impairment summarises the difficulties of the Autistic child but the actual manifestation of these can vary. Asperger’s may be a subtler form of ASD. </li></ul>Restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour. Impairment in social interaction . Impairment in verbal and non verbal communication. Peculiarities in verbal and non verbal communication. Wing and Gould’s triad of impairments
    14. 16. Teaching <ul><li>What would the ideal classroom look like? </li></ul><ul><li>The secret was there all along… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>‘SL-Labs’…slabs! Exposed learning spaces… </li></ul></ul>
    15. 17. Example <ul><li>Spidergram Planner (by Eloise Pasteur) </li></ul>
    16. 18. SL-Labs at University of Derby <ul><li>The University has two Islands and has been using Second Life for over three years. </li></ul><ul><li>We have several teaching sites and many SL projects from our Games Development and Psychology students. </li></ul>
    17. 20. Current projects <ul><li>Teaching in Second Life </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Evaluated the use of Second Life for teaching and learning in Higher Education. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The project was one of the successful 'Land Grants' on Education UK Island. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A group of first year Psychology undergraduate students participated in an optional and supplementary Second Life component of our 'Psychology Skills' module. </li></ul></ul>
    18. 21. The Design <ul><li>A blend of 'in-world' enhanced educational student-led group sessions for learning alongside conventional e-learning material. </li></ul><ul><li>Traditional text-based content was blended with student-focused methods, the result being a shift from isolated study and tutor-led instruction to student-led highly interactive group learning. </li></ul><ul><li>Students were overall, responsible for the final teaching methods used, whilst guidance was provided by a facilitator in the form of materials and direction for group discussion and activities. </li></ul>
    19. 22. Development <ul><li>We learn best by doing (with a little planning) </li></ul><ul><li>Woops, we got carried away… </li></ul><ul><li>Too big! Too fast! </li></ul><ul><li>We had a go…at custom made environments </li></ul><ul><li>Pilot - Revise and regroup – that’s better </li></ul><ul><li>A brain wave occurred!!!! </li></ul><ul><ul><li>“We don’t need all this stuff around us!”… Can we strip it all back to the essentials? What is essential for an effective learning environment? </li></ul></ul>
    20. 23. Current projects <ul><li>Social Communication Skills of people with Asperger’s and high-functioning Autism in virtual worlds </li></ul><ul><ul><li>People with Autism can have considerable communication difficulties in social situations and higher level language skills, such as inferring intentions or mental states from others, are often impaired. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>This project seeks to investigate if Second Life can be of use to them in developing social and communicative skills. </li></ul></ul>
    21. 24. Current projects <ul><li>People with Autism often have communication problems. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>They often choose to communicate in ways that allow them to slow down the process, for example email, text, internet messaging and social networking web sites. </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Typed vs. Spoken Communication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Face to face communication bandwidth is of the order of 150 to 200 words per minute. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Typing for most is 15 to 20 wpm, therefore e-communication is approx 10 times slower than F2F or voice. </li></ul></ul>
    22. 25. Current projects <ul><ul><li>They can provide high levels of: </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>social interactivity </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>without complex linguistic and social-behavioural processing necessary for face-to-face conversations. </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><li>There is no direct empirical evidence that supports this link but it may explain why many people with Autism are reported to find 3D virtual worlds rewarding. </li></ul><ul><li>If found the implications for provision of cost-effective ‘virtual’ interventions for people with Autism are considerable. </li></ul>
    23. 27. Future projects <ul><li>Autism Simulator </li></ul><ul><ul><li>We have planned a project that will demonstrate to the sensory sensitivities of people with Autism </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Light </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Noise </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Touch </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Obsessions </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Associated comorbiditiy </li></ul></ul>
    24. 28. <ul><li>Second Life provides an opportunity for: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Collaboration and community. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Sense of community </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Social skills rehearsal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Safety to make mistakes </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A space to make friends and personally develop </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A place to share information </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A place to simulate social interactions of real life </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Research and interaction. </li></ul></ul>The potential of Second Life for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder
    25. 29. Summary Simon Bignell (Avatar: Milton Broome) Blog: <ul><li>Projects in Second Life are… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Challenging, requires planning and continual development </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Possibly requires relinquishing control to the facilitator </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Enthusiasm and belief in the platform as a tool not a game </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Support from scripters and builders </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A reflective and action-oriented approach to projects </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Lots and lots and lots of time to ensure it has value for all </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If Second Life doesn’t improve things don’t use it! </li></ul></ul><ul><li>For Autism… </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Offers a new space for social skills rehearsal </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A community and place to learn in a safe environment </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Potentially a therapeutic environment </li></ul></ul>