Seminar 4: Programme


The Technology Bubble

9:45 – 16:00, Friday 20th November 2015
Wide Lane Sports Centre, University of Southampton

Wide Lane Sports Centre is a 5-minute walk from Southampton Airport and Southampton Airport Parkway train station.

This fourth seminar in the series focuses specifically on the technologies that are being developed and used to support children and adults on the autism spectrum in a range of contexts and for a variety of purposes. Speakers will be exploring issues around:

  • What are the benefits and costs of the development and use of different types of innovative technologies (e.g. Virtual Reality; tangible devices; augmented reality)?
  • What are their different affordances or benefits (for particular individuals or groups)?
  • Are there different areas in which one works better than another?
  • What can we learn about nature of partner involved in communication and interaction (same age, cross-age, robot partners, virtual partners)?

In addition, there will be some technology demos from researchers, practitioners, and industry partners to showcase what is possible.

09:15 – 09:45: Arrival and Refreshments
09:45 – 10:00: Welcome and introduction

Prof Sarah Parsons, University of Southampton

10:00 – 10:45: Virtual Environments for Ecologically Valid Assessments of Persons with Autism

Dr Thomas Parsons, University of North Texas

Assessment and treatment of social, cognitive, and affective processing requires approaches that can differentiate overlapping symptoms. Traditional approaches often fail to capture the activities of daily living found in real-world contexts. This talk will discuss research with novel technologies that provide platforms for assessment of real-world activities in controlled environments.

10:45 – 11:00: Discussion in small groups and feedback
11:00 – 11:45: Technology for ASC? The Medium Matters

Professor Narcis Pares, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona

As technology evolves it becomes increasingly available for a wider range of applications in our society. Autism is one of these areas that has been benefiting from the accessibility of technology; from desktop computers and laptops, moving through videogame consoles, and all the way to smartphones and tablets. However, does availability imply adequacy? My argument is that by seeing technology only as mere technology, many have the temptation of applying it just because it is possible and available. Unfortunately, this is often done in a blind and unreflecting manner. Without trying to understand that each technology, even each configuration, is actually defining a different medium. What we commonly call “interaction” in a general way, is actually a complex range of different “interactive media”. Each one has its own specificities; i.e. its own way of allowing communication or, more precisely, mediation of an experience to its users. In my research I have always quested to understand such differences and, hence, tried to apply, in a justified way, the best option to each project I have worked in. In this seminar I will introduce some of the theoretical differences through accessible and simple ideas as well as through concrete examples of my work and research specifically applied to the area of Autism.

11:45 – 12:00: Discussion in small groups and feedback
12:00 – 12:45: LUNCH (posters & tech demos available)
12:45 – 13:30: Technology-mediated interventions to improve psychological and social skills: promises and pitfalls

Dr Lina Gega, Northumbria University

This session will demonstrate how novel technology-mediated interventions, such as a virtual environments system and a picture-based computerised programme, could be used to help people develop psychological and social skills. We will provide an overview of findings from different projects that used these technologies to help people understand how specific emotions, behaviours and thoughts interlink to maintain psychological difficulties and how practising social skills “in virtuo” can boost people’s confidence to perform in “real life”. We will encourage reflection and discussion on the promises and pitfalls of these technologies for particular issues and problems that are often encountered by people with intellectual disabilities including those on the autism spectrum.

13:30 – 13:45: Discussion in small groups and feedback
13:45 – 14:30: Interactive technology demonstrations (see presenters below)
14:30 – 14:45: TEA BREAK
12:45 – 13:30: Robots as a therapeutic tools: Encouraging social interaction skills in children with autism

Dr Ben Robins, University of Hertfordshire

The talk will present several robots including the child like robot KASPAR which was developed at the University of Hertfordshire, UK, and the ways in which the robots can engage autistic children in simple interactive activities such as turn-taking and imitation games, and how the robots assume the role of a social mediators – encouraging children with autism to interact with other people (children and adults). The talk will also present several case study examples taken from the work with children with autism at schools, showing possible implementation of KASPAR for therapeutic or educational objectives. These case studies show how the robot:

  • helps to break the isolation
  • encourages the use of language
  • mediates child-child or child-adult interaction
  • helps children with autism manage collaborative play
  • compliments the work in the classroom
  • provides the opportunity for basic embodied and cognitive learning, resulting in the emerging awareness of cause and effect.

15:30 – 15:45: Discussion in small groups and feedback
15:45 – 16:00: Concluding remarks and close

We are very pleased that the following people will be demonstrating technologies during the day:

Paul Strickland is a technology consultant who is leading the development of innovative video/virtual reality technologies and has a longstanding interest in the role of emotion in the technology/person interface. Paul has explored, through his company Xenodu Ltd, a specialist interest in the design of immersive virtual environments systems for the health and learning sectors involving partnerships with various organisations including NHS, Norfolk County Council and BBC as well as a wide range of schools, colleges and universities. Paul has also developed virtual reality systems to assist psychological and behavioural interventions for people with intellectual disabilities and is passionate about exploring the fundamental learning needs of people with social and emotional interaction difficulties and the design of immersive technologies to support these needs. He will demonstrate two of the systems developed for these projects at the Digital Bubbles seminar and will welcome your thoughts and ideas.

James Winchester has been teaching in special needs for 8 years and is the Lead Practitioner responsible for Strategic ICT and Curriculum at Oak Grove College, a generic secondary special school in West Sussex. He has begun focusing on how technology can aid all learners to reach their potential. He is part of a professional learning community exploring the use of gesture based technology to promote engagement and creativity for students with learning difficulties. Through this PLC, they have focussed on technology like the Kinect, Oculus Rift and Leap-Motion using software like Somantics, Reactickles and Somability.

Ruth Aspden is Assistant Head teacher of St. Anthony’s School in Chichester and a member of the NOVIO working party. Ruth has over fifteen years of experience delivering to and supporting pupils on the autistic spectrum in a special school. She also supports mainstream colleagues through NOVIO in West Sussex. Ruth has continued to have a strong working relationship with the University of Sussex since completing her M.A. and has supported a variety of projects and research students. Ruth plans to bring a variety of equipment to share with delegates on the day. This will include low tech, simple touch button devises and more high tech classroom applications. She hopes that through hands on and practical application you will be able to see how technology can support pupils on the autistic spectrum.