Communication impairments are a core challenge faced by individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). These challenges result in difficulties in both the acquisition and expression of language. Within the ASD community, expressive communication ranges from complete mutism and little functional communication to highly skilled language expression. Furthermore, communication challenges extend beyond the person themselves and affect their family, friends, and larger social support network. While advances in communication technologies have transformed communication and connectivity for neurotypicals, the ASD community has had to hope for serendipitous advances in technology that can be appropriated. While cutting-edge learning technologies have moved towards technology-centered participatory cultures that facilitate learning at many levels, the ASD community has been largely left behind. This work presents a technological ecosystem centered on a highly interactive and customizable story platform – StoryScape – that will allow a community of individuals to participate in the acquisition and expression of language through the exploration and creation of e-book stories.
The use of illustrated stories is a powerful and well tested method for teaching language and social situations for children diagnosed with ASD. The use of Social Stories and sequencing are common practice for many families, teachers, and therapists. StoryScape leverages these techniques and methods to create a new platform for creating highly interactive and personalized illustrated stories for use in learning language and social dynamics. Unlike current methods, StoryScape allows a community of users and content creators to participate in the teaching and acquisition of language. The objective of StoryScape is to leverage interactive personalized stories for the acquisition and expression of language.
The development of StoryScape is following an iterative user-centered design methodology that include consultation with users, therapists, and education technology experts. Current work has been focused on initial development of an extensive platform that allows for story creation, story sharing, story remixing, and data collection and analysis. Planed experiments testing the efficacy of the system will proceed from initial design iterations and usability testing.
While experimental testing of StoryScape's efficacy in facilitating language acquisition and expression have not been concluded some initial test related to usability are under way. Preliminary results indicate that the platform is very intuitive to use for reading and interacting with the interactive stories. In addition, initial test have demonstrated that story creation is accessible to a wide area of people with different technological skill levels.
The StoryScape project is a continuing work, initial development and usability testing are promising. The ability to easily create or modify learning material around a child's special interest is seen as a major advantage to engaging individuals in language centric activities. In addition, the platforms ability to record story interaction is very promising, as it allows for the collection of data that may reveal language and learning ability that otherwise would not be available. Further work is in progress to test the platforms ability to facilitate language acquisition and expression. During the poster session we will conduct live demonstrations.