Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC, frequently defined as ASD - Autism Spectrum Disorders) are neurodevelopmental conditions, characterized by social communication difficulties and restricted and repetitive behaviour patterns. Current studies suggest 1% of the population might fit an ASC diagnosis. Alongside their difficulties individuals with ASC tend to have intact and sometimes superior abilities to comprehend and manipulate closed, rule-based, predictable systems, such as computerized environment. Their affinity for the computerized environment has led to several attempts to teach emotion recognition and expression, and social problem solving to individuals with ASC, using computer-based training.
In the last decade, web applications have been increasingly used for social interaction, forming online communities and social networks. Anecdotal reports of the emergence of online autistic communities, and the use of forums and virtual-worlds, show the great promise the internet holds for better inclusion and social skills training for users/people with ASC. Since intervention into ASC has been shown to be more effective when provided early in life, using the internet as a platform for the support of younger individuals with ASC could significantly promote their social inclusion.
The proposed project aims to create and evaluate the effectiveness of such an internet-based platform, directed for children with ASC (and other groups like ADHD and socially-neglected children) and those interested in their inclusion. This platform will combine several state-of-the art technologies in one comprehensive virtual world, including analysis of users’ gestures, facial and vocal expressions using standard microphone and webcam, training through games, text communication with peers and smart agents, animation, video and audio clips. User’s environment will be personalized, according to individual profile & sensory requirements, as well as motivational. Carers will be offered their own supportive environment, including professional information, reports of child’s progress and use of the system and forums for parents and therapists.