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Cognitive therapies use traditional objects to teach children with autism age appropriate cognitive skills. During cognitive therapies children with autism often loose attention, and caregivers invest a lot of time in engaging them with the therapy providing frequent prompting while maintaining a detailed record of children’s progress, and number of given prompts. To ease current challenges during therapies, tangible computing could augment familiar objects with computational capabilities to engage children with the therapy, while supporting the automatic recording of information.
These “smart objects”, which are already familiar to both children with autism and special caregivers, constitute an easy to use interface with computational resources that are integrated in a natural and transparent way. In this project we explore the design space for developing “smart objects” to alleviate current challenges in cognitive therapies for children with autism. We conducted a contextual study in Pasitos, a specialized clinic caring children with autism that led us to the development of “Things That Think” (T3). T3 are “smart objects” that present themselves as fun to the children, and allow caregivers to perform their therapies in a more appealing way assisting them with monitoring of relevant events during the therapy.
T3 objects have an electronical “brain” composed of an accelerometer, an array of leds, a microphone, a loudspeaker, and a motor, that enables an objet to “talk”, “sing”, “turn on”, and “move” whenever the user “grabs it” , “releases it” or “shakes it”.  A T3 object could also be used in collaboration extending its “brain” with an RFID tag and glove with RFID reader for reading face-to-face interactions such as: requests, replies and prompts. We are currently implementing the electronical “brain”, and the glove for creating several T3s objects to prove our concept.

 Project participants

Catalina Ibarra, Master student (see more about catalina …)
e: caiben03[at]gmail[dot]com

Monica Tentori, Ph.D., Assistant Professor (see more about monica …)
e: mten …

Related publications to the project

  • Escobedo, L., Ibarra, C., Hernandez, J., Alvelais, M., and Tentori, M. (in press) “Smart objects to support the discrimination training of children with autism” Personal and Ubiquitous Computing

  • Quintana, E., Ibarra, C., Escobedo, L., Tentori, M. and Favela, J. (2012) “Object and gesture recognition to assist children with autism during the discrimination training”, CIARP ’12, Buenos Aires, Argentina

  • Ibarra, C. y Tentori, M. “Things that think” for the cognitive skills training of students with autism. Workshop on Evaluation, interfaces and education, de CHI ’12, Autisn, Texas