International interest in the use of assistive and ambient information and communication technologies to support people with a range of cognitive impairments is growing rapidly. Autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), which affect social skills, communicative abilities and behavior, are of particular interest. The number of diagnosed cases has continued to grow in recent decades, and the impairments associated with ASDs mean individuals affected are at risk of social isolation and marginalization. Although helping people with autism to overcome their difficulties has always required the joint expertise of various fields, the widely shared view is that innovative ICT may hold the key to more efficient support and intervention in the near future.
This book summarizes the results and conclusions of HANDS, an international research and development project supported by the 7th Framework Programme of the European Commission. The aim of the HANDS project was to develop and test a smartphone-based cognitive support system for intellectually able young people with ASDs, with a focus on use in secondary school environments. The results presented here include the HANDS system: a partly mobile, partly web-based cognitive support system based on principles of Persuasive Design; a unique multi-mode research methodology, applying both various quantitative and qualitative techniques to test the applicability and efficiency of the system; an exploration of relevant conceptual issues from the point of view of Persuasive Design and its philosophical foundations; a mapping of key ethical issues related to developing and applying mobile ICT for individuals with autism and other cognitive impairments. The experiences of teachers who implemented the system in school environments are also summarized. These results can be seen as snapshots of an evolutionary process, but the conclusions drawn here are significant for future developments with mobile assistive technology for people with ASD, as well as for other conditions.
The book will be of interest to professionals working with young people with ASD, human-computer interaction professionals, as well as others working in the broader field of mobile assistive technology.
We map out the objectives of the HANDS project, with its key focus on developing a suite of mobile apps (the HANDS toolkit) that could help young people with autism spectrum disorders to develop social and daily life skills. They outline the design of the HANDS system, including its innovative use of persuasive technology design, and its Client/Server architecture. An overview of each of the subsequent chapters is also included.
The primary aim of this chapter is to show how the specific cognitive, behavioral and motivational patterns characterizing individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) lead to very specific needs for support and inclusion, and what are the core approaches to exploit information and communication technology for fulfilling these needs. Accordingly, a short introduction is given to the basic facts about ASDs first. We show that ASDs are human neurocognitive developmental disorders, where biological foundations, in interaction with some other factors, lead to atypical patterns of key human abilities. Consequently, individuals with ASD show often deep difficulties in social engagement, social participation, as well as in daily life management. These difficulties, in turn, give way to a high risk of social isolation and marginalization. We argue that there are no means to eliminate the causes of social and self-management difficulties, due to their complexities, but there exists a set of well-established, partly evidence-based psycho-educational approaches that offer principles and tools to support affected people effectively. In the third part of the chapter we overview of the existing key approaches to using ICT tools for supporting individuals on the autism spectrum, with an emphasis not primarily on technological but on functional aspects. A map of this highly specific but growing field is outlined, with the HANDS system localized on it. Finally, on the basis of previous argumentations and reviews, we summarize a few key requirements for designing digital support systems for individuals with ASD, as well as for monitoring their usage and testing their efficiency.
The HANDS project suggests the use of Mobile Persuasion in order to support young people with an autism diagnosis and normal or high IQ. The paper offers a description and a discussion of the use in HANDS of ideas from the theory of persuasive technology. It is a survey paper summarizing the major aspects of the theoretical approach used in the HANDS project.
The wisdom and experience of teachers were at the heart of the HANDS project. They played a key role in the design of the HANDS software, as well as being the key intermediaries working with the young people in schools on the implementation of HANDS. This chapter focuses on the experiences of the teachers, including both problems and success cases. A substantial contribution from school staff formed the basis for much of the discussion in the chapter. Key conclusions are presented for the future use and development of mobile cognitive support tools for young people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in school settings
The EU-funded project HANDS was aimed at assisting young people with an autism spectrum disorder to increase their participation in social life. The core of the project was the development of a mobile device using personalizable software utilizing persuasive technology techniques. This chapter analyzes the ethical issues raised by the project itself and some of the broader issues raised by the use of persuasive technologies in a population with autism spectrum disorder. These include issues relating to consent and assent procedures, the potential conflict of interest of teachers as researchers and co-producers of knowledge, and questions concerning privacy and parental access to data. In addition the chapter also provides an account of the advice given by the project's ethics advisory board.
Miklos Gyori, Joseph Mintz, Krisztina Stefanik, Ildikó Kanizsai-Nagy, Zsombor Várnagy-Tóth
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The key aim of this chapter is to introduce the complex, multi-mode research methodology the HANDS system has been tested by in terms of its efficiency and applicability, to point to the considerations that motivated this methodology, to summarize the major conclusions it served with, and to make some conclusive recommendations for similar future developments as well as for their field testing. Thus, the first part of the chapter is a brief outline of the contexts of, and methodological dilemmas related to, the non-trivial task of testing a mobile cognitive support system designed specifically for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Then an overview of the scheme of the mixed mode methodology applied in the HANDS project is presented. As this scheme is based on cooperation between methodologically autonomous research streams, this section introduces briefly the designs and methods used by the three strands. The third part of the chapter is a brief overview of a few key research findings from two of the above research streams (Cognitive Psychology and Applicability in the Learning Environment) – both of those results that arose specific research streams and of those that came from integrated interpretations. Part four then presents two brief case studies where quantitative and qualitative data are drawn together to illustrate both the complexity of factors influencing usage efficiency and user experience, but also the productivity of multi-mode methods. Our results altogether suggest that – adequate institutional and technological background and pedagogical embedding provided – the HANDS system can be an efficient element in the toolset for supporting young people on the autism spectrum, as its use is able, in selected cases, to enhance their social, self management and daily life skills. Our complex research design has proven to be highly productive in revealing positive effects as well as their contextual preconditions and some key limitations. Based on these results, the closing part of the chapter focuses on future perspectives, in two ways: what are the vistas for further development of similar support systems and in what ways the overall successful methodological approach could be further improved.
We position the HANDS project in the wider context of developments in mobile technology and consider what legacy the project leaves. We identify a series of overall conclusions and recommendations from the project about the ways in which “HANDS-like” technology, i.e. integrated suites of mobile apps designed to develop social and daily life skills in young people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), should be developed and implemented in the future. We also set out a roadmap for a future research agenda, indicating further promising lines of enquiry that could potentially lead to the development of effective assistive mobile technology that has the potential to make a difference to the lives of young people with ASD and other people with social and cognitive impairments.
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