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Simon BIgnell's presentation from the Open University conference ReLIVE08 2008.

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

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  1. 1. Social Communication Skills ofPeople Diagnosed with Autismand Aspergers in 3D Multi-User Virtual Worlds Simon Bignell Lecturer in Psychology, University of Derby
  2. 2. Introduction• I am Simon Bignell my Avatar in Second Life is Milton Broome.• I am a lecturer in Psychology at University of Derby in the UK.• I teach a module at Derby University called “Autism, Asperger’s and ADHD”.• I have been using Second Life for teaching and educational research and more recently looking at Autism and Asperger’s in Second Life.
  3. 3. Acknowledgements
  4. 4. The Unique Properties of Second Life• Allows accessible anonymous social interaction.• Has the potential to be ‘Safe and Secure’, free from the threat of physical intimidation.• Provides high levels of social interactivity but without complex linguistic and social-behavioural processing necessary for face-to-face conversations.• Visually very believable and immersive.• Can act to levels the playing field for people with disabilities.
  5. 5. Project• Second Life allows the exchange of conversation to be slowed down and managed whilst maintaining the social interactivity of real life communication.• For people with mental and/or physical disabilities reducing the complex social and language processing necessary for meaningful relationships is crucial.
  6. 6. Autistic Spectrum Disorder.A continuum that…“…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.” Lorna wing
  7. 7. What Is Autism? Impairment in social interaction.Impairment in verbal Restricted, repetitive andand non verbal stereotyped patterns ofcommunication. behaviour.
  8. 8. What Is Asperger’s Disorder? Impairment in social interaction.Impairment in verbaland non verbalcommunication. Restricted, repetitive andPeculiarities in verbal stereotyped patterns ofand non verbal behaviour.communication. • The triad of impairment summarises the difficulties of the Autistic person but the actual manifestation of these can vary. Asperger’s may be a subtler form of ASD.
  9. 9. Current projects…• Social Communication Skills of people with Asperger’s and high-functioning Autism in virtual worlds – 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. – This pilot project investigate if Second Life can be of use to them in (evaluating) developing social and communicative skills.
  10. 10. Current projects• People with Autism often have communication problems. – 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.• Typed vs. Spoken Communication – Face to face communication bandwidth is of the order of 150 to 200 words per minute. – Typing for most is 15 to 20 wpm, therefore e- communication is approx 10 times slower than face to face or voice.
  11. 11. Current projects• This link between social communication impairment and virtual worlds may explain why many people with Autism are reported to find 3D virtual worlds rewarding.• Can we detect social language problems in high functioning Autistics by using a virtual world methodology? What lessons can we learn?• If we can conduct reliable and valid research in virtual worlds with clinical populations the implications for provision of cost-effective ‘virtual’ interventions for people with Autism are considerable.
  12. 12. Vid 1 Social Role Plays in Second Life • Social Introductions; Social Rules (faux pas); Problem Solving; Misunderstanding (Ambiguous Words). • E.G.: Misunderstanding Task: Avatars role play a social conversation about the gym. Person A is the participant (Autistic), Person B is the experimenter, Person C is a research assistant. 1. A ← B Likes the staff at the gym but complains about her shoes rubbing so can’t continue. 2. A ← C Hates the staff at the gym. 3. A is involved in a conversation and sees B ↔ C: (B)“My trainers are a real problem for me!”, (C)“Yes, me too!”, (B)“Really?”, (C)“Yes, I don’t like the way they talk to me.”, (B)“Huh?, That’s impossible!” etc….
  13. 13. TestsAdapted version of Test of Language Competence (Expanded Edition), “Mum looked really low today.”
  14. 14. TestsThe Multiple Meanings in Context Subtest. From Understanding Ambiguity (Rinaldi,1996). “Mrs Smith was late for school. She said, ‘I’m sorry I’m late, the road wasjammed solid this morning.” vids
  15. 15. Results/Lessons• No major differences between ‘Autistic’ group and ‘Non-Autistic’ group. – It may be the case that there were differences but we didn’t detect them (Type II Error). – Our groups were not selected reliably. – Second Life was too messy. – Not enough people are using voice to recruit. – Generalisations from population are dubious. – Ceiling effects (too easy) on adapted tests. – Experimental control is difficult to ensure. – Can’t get reliable reaction times. – Dedicated tests are needed and extensive piloting is required.
  16. 16. Research in Second Life Informs Teaching in Real Life• Teaching in Second Life at Higher Education level… – Challenging – Requires planning and continual development – Needs a flexible attitude towards learning – Possibly requires relinquishing control to the learner – Enthusiasm and belief in the platform as a tool not a game – Support from scripters and builders – A reflective and action-oriented approach to teaching methods – Lots and lots and lots of time to ensure it has value for students – If Second Life doesn’t improve your students’ learning experience don’t use it!
  17. 17. The potential of Second Life for people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder• Second Life provides an opportunity for: – Sense of community – Social skills rehearsal – Safety to make mistakes – A space to make friends and personally develop – A place to share information – A place to simulate social interactions of real life – Research and interaction. – Potentially a therapeutic environment.
  18. 18. Future projects• Autism Simulator – We are developing, with the Autistic community, a project that will demonstrate/simulate some of the sensory sensitivities of people with Autism. – Light – Noise – Touch – Attention focus – Associated comorbidity
  19. 19. PREVIEW-Psych Project• Upskilling Day for Psychology subject group (March 2008)• Mentoring Scheme for six institutions (From January 2008) Webpage: See also Milton Broome’s Virtual Psychology Blog for overview /
  20. 20. ContactSimon Bignell (Second Life Avatar: Milton Broome) Lecturer in Psychology at University of Derby Blog: Twitter: MiltonBroome See also Eduserv’s ‘snapshot’ of UK HE and FE developments in SL for overview