Project Details

Early Career

Status: Funded - Open

A system for social training and progress tracking for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

Haik Kalantarian, MS, PhD


BACKGROUND: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disability affecting 70 million children worldwide, including 750 thousand American children under the age of ten. Many children with ASD struggle to make eye contact, recognize facial expressions, and engage in social interactions with their peers.

GAP: The increasing incidence of this condition and limited resources have resulted in long waitlists that delay diagnosis and treatment beyond the timeframe in which intervention can have maximum impact.

HYPOTHESIS: We hypothesize that a charades-style mobile game, “Guess What?”, can address social deficits through a form of mobile discrete trial training. Computer-vision algorithms will automatically characterize the child’s ability to recognize and imitate emotions during gameplay using the phone’s front camera.

METHODS: Our study will include 120 families with an eligibility criteria of ages 4-11, prior diagnosis of autism, and a 50/50 split between treatment and control. We plan to use the SRS-2 and Vineland Communication and Socialization Subdomains, to see how progress through the game is correlated with these standard outcome measures.

RESULTS: We will remotely enroll 120 families in our study, longitudinally tracking the progress made by children as prompts of various difficulty are presented, adapting dynamically to their ability to recognize and imitate emotion.

IMPACT: Our system can lead to a faster, more engaging way for children with ASD to understand emotions. Moreover, we hope to facilitate the process of tracking progress on a more granular scale, and give way to more efficient and personalized treatment.

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