Current Research

Investigations Connected to Avatars for Autism

BYU RESEARCHERS USE DIGITAL PUPPETEER SYSTEM

As of Sept.20, 2020
By Gary Jesch

This year, a professor at Brigham Young University published a study in the Elsevier Journal called “Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.” It details how they used our 3D Digital Puppeteer software to examine avatar-based social skills intervention in a clinical setting. This small study revealed a similar conclusion made by many other researchers in Europe and the US. Participants make consistent gains when assisted by computer-generated interactive avatars.

BYU education researchers have found that children with autism love learning with the help of live animated characters. In fact, the BYU study found that children learned more by talking to an animated fish avatar named Marla than they learned by talking to another person.

BYU student Bruna Goncalves, who graduates from BYU this week, has been a fundamental part of the autism research project. Goncalves was inspired to pursue special education out of love for her older sister, Barbara, who has cerebral palsy.

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RESEARCH – BEYOND ABA THERAPY

As of Jan. 22, 2016
By Dr. Tom Buggey with Gary Jesch

Theoretical and empirical evidence. There are very few instructional strategies that have proven successful for working with children with autism. The method of choice over the last half century has been intense Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Although ABA has the most comprehensive treatment database, and there is evidence to suggest that the more intense the training, the better the outcomes, especially related to IQ and language (Virués-Ortega, 2010), there are still unresolved issues regarding the ethics of a 30 – 40 hr-per-week regimen for younger children. Additionally, a well-constructed study coming out of Sweden revealed that ABA treatments were effective, but there was no relationship between the intensity of ABA treatment and education outcomes (Fernel, et al., 2011).   While ABA will probably always be an important part of autism treatment, it is important to continue the search for other effective treatments that have a “softer” impact on children with autism and their families.

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CHILDREN WITH AUTISM TEND TO BE VISUAL LEARNERS

As of Feb. 18, 2015
By Dr. Tom Buggey with Gary Jesch

There has been a prevailing notion that children with autism tend to be visual learners, although research findings are mixed on the subject (Erdodi, Lajiness-O’Neill, & Schmitt, 2013).  What is known is that when the human is not present, but represented on a screen, attention is heightened and learning results improved (e.g. Bellini & Akulian 2007; Buggey & Ogle, 2012; Charlop-Christy, Le, &. Freeman, 2000; Hine & Wolery, 2006).  There seem to be some unique outcomes achieved through video-based modeling, especially with children with autism. It seems that results appear quickly, are maintained, and generalize to other behaviors and situations. Effect sizes tend to be quite large.

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