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Designing a virtual teacher for non-verbal children with autism: Pedagogical affordances and the influence of teacher voice

By Paul Herring, Kieron Sheehy, Roger Jones and Karen Kear


The prevalence of children with autism in Asia has been estimated as comparable to that in many other countries (Jeevanandam, 2009; William et al., 2005). Within this group, approximately one-third to one-half of these children will lack functional speech (Mirenda, 2003) and have severe learning difficulties. There have been recent technological developments for teaching children with autism, for example virtual worlds (Bignell, 2008) and socially intelligent agents (Dautenhahn & Werry, 2004). However, there has been relatively little research into the effectiveness of technologically supported approaches to language development for those children who are non-verbal.\ud \ud The Picture Exchange Communications System (PECS) is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) approach that has been used with children with little or no speech to develop language and communication skills. In essence the children gradually learn to communicate through exchanging pictures and symbols for desired items or outcomes. There is empirical evidence to support the value of this approach (Preston & Carter, 2009).\ud \ud This paper considers a technologically supported approach within this area: Computer Assisted Picture Exchange (CAPE). It examines the issue of teacher embodiment and the affordances arising from using an interactive virtual teacher avatar that responds to the child's manipulation of objects and symbols in the physical world. The paper discusses investigations to compare synthetic and natural teacher voices, and to assess their influence on the learning of communication skills by children with autism

Year: 2010
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Provided by: Open Research Online
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