The Sensory Toy Box: An Interactive Game-Based Technology As an Assessment Tool

Friday, May 13, 2016: 10:00 AM-1:30 PM
Hall A (Baltimore Convention Center)
S. Valencia1, P. Perez Fuster2, M. Mademtzi1, L. Hart1 and F. Shic1, (1)Yale Child Study Center, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, (2)Autism Research Group. Robotics Institute, University of Valencia, Valencia, Spain
Background: The diversity of sensory styles in individuals with ASD has been widely reported in the literature (Bogdashina, 2003). These diverse sensory profiles have a direct impact on the individual’s response to the environment and their perceptual experience. Available evidence suggests that perceptual alterations, independent from social function, can be present in many individuals with ASD (Behrmann et al., 2006). Learning about each individual’s sensory profile can help identify sensory strengths and weaknesses that can assist in the selection of appropriate methods for teaching and treatment (Bogdashina, 2003). Current assessment tools to determine sensory profiles are questionnaire based and typically completed by parents. Collecting data on sensory preferences directly from individuals with ASD seems to be challenging, especially from minimally verbal children. An Interactive game-based technology was developed to help children with visual impairments learn about touch perception and to promote their sensory abilities (Valencia & Uribe, 2014). This device presents visual, auditory and tactile features that can also be beneficial for children with ASD and can provide a framework for data collection on individual sensory preferences.

Objectives: the objective of this study is to present a novel interactive technology based on the Valencia & Uribe (2014) prototype that can be used as an assessment tool for the evaluation of sensory preferences in children with ASD.

Methods: The sensory toy box for children with ASD is a device that recognizes different tangible inputs using Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology. The device is also linked to an app, used for stimuli presentation on a tablet. The tangible inputs, figurines or shapes, have RFID tags that can be programmable through RFID writer devices to create a desired response on the toy box. The user selects tangible objects based on auditory and visual prompts he or she receives from the box or tablet. The system allows data collection on the: 1) frequency of selection of each object and 2) the order in which each object is placed on the box according to each stimulus presented.

Results: In Valencia & Uribe’s study, participants included children with visual disability (1 male, 4 females; Mage=7±0.82) and children without visual disabilities (2 males, 1 female; Mage=7.33±0.57). Through different game modes (i.e. storytelling, letters, and musical) and the use of auditory cues, visual rewards and tactile stimulation, the children in this study interacted positively with the toy box. Difficulties in concept associations to physical objects were identified in 3 of the participants. This result opens the way to explore the potential of using different sensory stimuli targeting the auditory, tactile and visual systems to discover strengths and weaknesses in sensory processing in children with ASD.

Conclusions:  In this work we have developed an interactive technological tool to assist in the evaluation of sensory preferences in children with ASD. Data collection is ongoing, and by May of 2016 we expect to present on the interactions of 4-6 minimally verbal children with ASD on the toybox.