International Meeting for Autism Research: Perceived Acceptance of the Mobile Social Compass

Perceived Acceptance of the Mobile Social Compass

Friday, May 13, 2011
Elizabeth Ballroom E-F and Lirenta Foyer Level 2 (Manchester Grand Hyatt)
9:00 AM
M. Tentori1, L. E. Boyd2, W. Roxas3, D. H. Nguyen4 and G. R. Hayes4, (1)Ensenda, Baja California, Mexico, (2)NOC SELPA, Fullerton, CA, United States, (3)Arthur F. Corey Elementary School, Buena Park, CA, (4)University of California, Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States

The Social Compass is a social skills curriculum for children with autism that combines visual supports, visual schedules and story-based interventions to develop age and functioning-level appropriate social skills. To augment the Social Compass curriculum, we developed a Mobile Social Compass system that extends the curriculum with a tool that allows children learn social support outside classrooms. The Mobile Social Compass is a mobile interactive system that uses a visual schedule to guide children throughout an interaction, helps them detect potential interaction partners, and gives them social cues. In this work, we present the results of a preliminary evaluation with potential users of the system to determine how the design and development of the Mobile Social System can and should be improved in future iterations.


Evaluate the Mobile Social Compass’s core characteristics, the potential users’ intentions for using the system, and their perception of system utility and ease of use. 


For a period of two months, we conducted seven focus groups with potential users, including fourteen children with autism aged between seven and ten, four teachers and four autism coordinators. We presented to participants mockups of the Mobile Social Compass System and animations of four scenarios depicting the system’s use. Each focus group lasted around one hour on average where participants discussed changes for the system and examples of how the system might positive or negative impact children’s interactions. We posed additional questions to validate our findings and to gather new design insights for the system’s redesign. We finally asked participants to answer a questionnaire aimed at predicting user acceptance based on the Technology Acceptance Model. 


Our results indicated that children perceived the system as fun, cool and appealing, a child commented: “This system is really cool, I can’t wait to use it.” The results from our predicted adoption showed that 94% of the participants would use the system, 91% believed the system would enhance their everyday interactions and 85% perceived the system would be easy to use. Autism coordinators had the lowest ease-of-use ratings, which could in part be because they were worried about liability issues or their capability to use and teach the system to the children. User training before system deployment might help alleviate this issue. Both children and teachers also gave us insights to improve our design by including mechanism for privacy management and a potential for a game-like interaction where children could earn points and rewards. This evaluation helped us improve the system’s current prototype.


We have developed and evaluated a Mobile Social Compass system to help children with autism improve their social skills outside classrooms. The results of our evaluation demonstrate that overall the application was perceived to be efficient and useful in improving the quality of interactions held by children with autism. We plan to evaluate this system in a public school in Southern California with three children with autism and nine neurotypical children to uncover emergent practices with using the system in a naturalistic environment outside classrooms.

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