Teaching Emotion Recognition with the Transporters DVD

Friday, May 13, 2016: 11:30 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
P. LaCava, Rhode Island College, Providence, RI
Background:  Facility with understanding, recognizing and responding one’s own and others’ emotions is at the core of social interactions (Baron-Cohen, 1995; 2003). In a variety of experimental tasks, children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) have shown delays in recognizing and understanding emotions (Golan et al., 2009). To improve emotion recognition skills several tactics have been successfully used. This includes more traditional approaches (i.e., direction instruction, ABA, etc.), computer programs such as Mind Reading (Baron-Cohen et al. 2003; LaCava et al., 2007; LaCava et al., 2010), or FaceSay (Hopkins et al., 2011), and the Transporters DVD (Golan et al., 2009). While experimental studies have shown the Transporters to be a motivating and effective way to teach emotions (Golan et al., 2009; Young & Posslet, 2012; Williams et al., 2012), no research to date has addressed the efficacy of the Transporters with American children.

Objectives:  To complete a pilot study to assess if the Transporters DVD can improve emotion recognition of American children with ASD. We hope to use this study’s findings to support a full clinical trial of the Transporters in the United States.

Methods: We are implementing a small pilot study using a one group pre-test post-test design with children ages 4 to 10.  Currently 6 children have completed the study, with 3 more currently using the program; we intend to have between 10 to 15 participants in the final sample. 33% of our current sample is from a minority racial group.  All participants will have an official diagnosis of ASD if diagnosed after DSM-5 2013 changes or a diagnosis of autistic disorder, Asperger syndrome or PDD-NOS, if diagnosed prior to 2013. At pre-testing parents are asked to complete the Social Emotional Evaluation Questionnaire (Wiig, 2008) and the Childhood Autism Spectrum Test. Children complete the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (Dunn & Dunn, 2007), the Social Emotional Evaluation Identifying Common Emotions and Identifying Emotional Reactions subtests (Wiig, 2008), and three researcher made computerized emotion recognition tasks (based on Golan et al., 2009). The intervention consists of 4 weeks of watching the Transporters DVD in either the home or school setting for at least 15 minutes a day/5 days a week. At post-testing we reassess children on the emotion recognition measures.

Results: We are still collecting data at this time but initial results suggest that the Transporters DVD is effective in helping about half of the participants to increase their emotion recognition performance from pre to post testing.

Conclusions: Final conclusions will be made once all participants complete the study. However, as no peer-reviewed publication currently exists about the Transporters efficacy in the United States, these initial findings will be important for families and practitioners making intervention decisions.