FaceSay Interactive Game Helps Autistic Children with Emotions
Social interactions, such as perceiving and understanding the emotions of others, are a challenge for people on the autism spectrum. Helping children improve their recognition of facial expressions and emotions is the goal of an interactive computer program called FaceSay created by Symbionica, LLC.
Psychologists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) tested 25 children with autism and 24 children with Asperger’s syndrome. The group, made up of 44 boys and five girls between the ages of 6 and 15, participated in an average 20-minute computer training session with three FaceSay games twice weekly for at least six weeks.
“The software features interactive games that let children with ASD practice recognizing the facial expressions of an avatar,” says Maria Hopkins, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychology in the UAB College of Arts and Sciences. “The exercises encourage users to focus on the upper half of a person’s face where crucial nonverbal information and emotions are expressed through the eyes.”
The team, led by Fred Biasini PhD found that the children with Asperger’s Syndrome who used the software made significant improvements in their ability to read facial expressions. The children with autism also improved, but less so, said Biasini.
Both groups improved on their ability to recognize emotions write the authors in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
“The children who worked with the software showed improvements in their playground interactions with other kids,” Hopkins says. “They used more eye contact and did a better job of following playmates’ eye gaze.”
The home edition of FaceSay will be released in March 2011 and will be retail for $79 USD. The computer program can be purchased online at www.facesay.com or by phone at 877-336-4130.
Symbionica LLC also offers several packages of FaceSay for classroom use.