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Children with autism may learn from 'virtual peers'
Date:2/29/2008

practicing social skills. For starters, children with autism often like technology. It interacts to us, said one child with autism upon first meeting a virtual peer.

Whats more, said Cassell, virtual peers dont get tired or impatient. We can program their conversation to elicit socially-skilled behavior, and we can vary the way that they look and behave so children with autism are exposed to different kinds of behavior.

Cassell and Tartaros study is part of larger efforts taking place in the Articulab, the Northwestern University laboratory where Cassell and colleagues explore how people communicate with and through technology.

In the Articulab, Cassell, who was trained as a psychologist and linguist, and Tartaro are teaming up with psychologist Miri Arie to develop assessment and intervention procedures that they hope will give them a better understanding of peer behaviors of children with autism.

A major challenge for children with autism is learning the rules of social behavior that typically developing children seem to learn intuitively.

Although childrens play appears spontaneous and wild, it follows certain basic social rules, said Arie. We hope virtual peers like Sam will allow children with autism to practice the rules behind joining a game, holding a conversation and maintaining social interaction. Then they can apply their newly acquired skills to real-life situations.


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Contact: Wendy Leopold
w-leopold@northwestern.edu
847-491-4890
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert  

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