Seminar 6: Delegates’ Feedback & Summary


Video interviews with the presenters can be found here.


Prof Mark Brosnan welcomed attendees to the day and began by introducing ‘the ESSENCE of diversity’

Parent Perspective

Samantha Holt from the University of Sussex gave her perspective on being a parent with a child who has a diagnosis of ASD and a learning disability.

Talk 1: Universal Interactions

JP Hourcade from the University of Iowa discussed the challenges and opportunities in designing for diverse populations. The talk focused on the principles of engaging with stakeholders, working with interdisciplinary teams, personalizing technology and making the technology practical. A range of research projects with children and older adults were discussed.

Talk 2: Participatory Design

Mina Vasalou from UCL Institute of Education discussed the roots of participatory design and focused on three criteria when characterizing trustworthiness of research:

  • Transferability
  • Credibility
  • Authenticity

Mina discussed how these criteria can guide participatory design methods to strengthen knowledge exchange and discussion across different groups of children with special education need or disability (SEND).

Demonstration of Apps

SMART-ASD, Javier Sevilla, University of Valencia

3DBI, Aurora Constantin, Hilary Johnson, Elizabeth Smith, Denise Lengyel, Mark Brosnan, University of Bath

Connect – A new app to support collaboration, Samantha Holt, Nicola Yuill & Stefan Kreitmayer, University of Sussex

Talk 3: Social Media, Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Amanda Hynan from Leeds Beckett University described a qualitative research project that explored the views of 25 young adults with cerebral palsy who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The facilitators and challenges to the use of social media and the perceived benefits for participants in terms of enriched social relationships and self-representation/self-determination opportunities were discussed.

Discussion in small groups

Each talk was followed by small group discussions that were fed back to the main group and allowed for questions.

Delegates’ Feedback

Audience members were encouraged to write down questions or comments on post-it notes following each talk. The comments were gathered up at the end of the day. Below is a summary of the main comments that people made.

Talk 1: Universal interactions

Following the first talk delegates began to think about the various stages and people involved in technology, from stakeholders to users. A few main themes emerged:


  • How do service providers and charities get devices or funding for them?
  • Research funding may not support follow up documentation support for users.
  • How do we convince parents (and staff) of benefits of technology? Focus on nature of the activity rather than the technology itself.
  • What training is needed in schools – fast changing technology.
  • Doing more to scaffold/structure the activity (beginnings and ends).
  • Need of training for families and professionals to use technology to its full potential – not toys.
  • Provide strategies to practitioners, but need to step away and see what happens.

Engagement and Disengagement

  • How do we mediate the disengagement from technology?
  • Deep engagement can mean something different: over stimulating, dysregulation.
  • Clinical settings – hard to encourage engagement.

Wider Implications

  • Children with autism have only one childhood.
  • How can we make assistive technologies “future proof”?
  • Ethics and responsible innovation as overarching concepts.
  • Work with children to become more familiar with children before studies (observe, activities).
  • Transitions in and out of the virtual environment – these need to be designed/planned.
  • People are generally willing to engage with others around technology (just as they are around other topics).

Talk 2: Participatory Design

The main discussion following talk 2 explored how validity can advance cross-links between different communities. Here are the main themes which arose:

Who is involved?

  • Whose agenda? Who knows best? Whose voice?
  • Parents in design groups – how much to facilitate child’s contribution?
  • Inclusion in design – how much are they led by the designer?
  • What is being designed and who decides? Researcher? Funder? Participant?
  • Who decides the goal of topic of the participatory design?
  • Parents/teacher role as representing the child
  • Goal may be to let children explore and contribute, rather than to direct them to goal.
  • Participation through role play.

What do we need to think about?

  • Does ‘impact’ agenda help or hinder ‘trustworthiness’ of research?
  • How about lower function ASD and profound needs?
  • What will be the purpose of student to use social media?
  • Can autistic students use social media?
  • Designed with and designed for – transferable? Internal conflict of interests?
  • Clarity in concise communication.
  • Value in structure and limiting choices.
  • Knowledge domains – who knows best about..?
Talk 3: Social Media, Augmentative and Alternative Communication

The final discussion focused on the implications of augmentative and alternative communication. The main themes raised were:

  • Do kids with autism have the same desire to communicate online?
  • Easy to identify common interests.
  • Facebook usage – not supposed to be for under 12s.
  • Different needs of lack of literacy, but can use symbol systems.
  • Online gaming, collaboration across distance e.g. Minecraft (communicating indirectly through the game).
  • Potential for misunderstanding, issues of safety (training for safety in schools already).
  • Potential for low literacy communication (look at collected data on this) e.g. support for Arabic script.