Virtual conversation simulator beneficial for adults with autism

Mary Ann Liebert, Inc. recently published a study in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking that investigated the effectiveness of a virtual conversation simulator in enhancing the conversational integrity of adults with autism.

A hallmark of autism is a degree of difficulty in communicating with other individuals, particularly in social interactions that require insight into and awareness of non-verbal conversational clues.  Many individuals with autism have normal intelligence levels but struggle with social situations.  Doctors from The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. and SIMmersion LLC in Columbia, Maryland, engaged adults with autism in a virtual conversation simulation program.  The prototypical program was designed to assess the value of such a program for individuals, specifically adults, with autism (ScienceDaily).

The study’s participants included 12 adolescents and adults with autism.  These individuals engaged in a virtual conversation simulator with an onscreen partner designed to replication realistic feedback triggered by the participant’s conversation responses (Trapgnier, C.Y., Olsen, D.E., Boteler, L., & Bell, C.A., 2011).  After two weeks, the participants were asked to use a Likert-type scale to rate the degree to which they found the simulator beneficial.  Study participants rated the simulator as highly beneficial.

One of the particular deficits associated with autism is the ability to understand and utilize pragmatic language, specifically elements of pragmatic language that often arise during conversations.  The researchers’ prototype rated individuals on their ability to manipulate, maintain and pleasantly conclude conversations on various topics, not just the participant’s preferred topics (Trapgnier, C.Y., Olsen, D.E., Boteler, L., & Bell, C.A., 2011).  This initial prototype for a virtual conversation simulator program supports the development of a more sophisticated program to investigate the degree to which virtual conversation simulators actually improve upon the pragmatic language skills of individuals with ASD.

Camp Academia, Inc. offers tutoring services for students with learning disabilities, and is particularly successful with individuals with ASD.  Camp Academia, Inc. has offices in Columbus and LaGrange, Georgia, and utilizes BrainJogging, its patented cognitive processing software.

Trepagnier, C.Y., Olsen, D.E., Boteler, L., and Bell, C.A. (2011). Virtual conversation partner for adults with autism [Abstract]. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 21(7).

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