Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Web Cams and Autism Treatment

Unfortunately, my computer recently took a turn for the worse and prompted me to seek a newer model. While webcams and built-in cameras have become standard issue on most laptops and tablet computers, I was pleasantly surprised to notice that my new desktop PC also included one. I was even more pleased to find that this particular model included a face-recognition software program which gradually 'learns' my face and signs me into the system as well as gives me the option to replace physically entering passwords and usernames for most sites that I use (a particularly useful feature if you're tired of typing and remembering these).

Inevitably, the folks on Madison Avenue have noticed this new technology and are now developing TVs with built-in cameras as well as software which will, eventually not only recognize your face when you are browsing the net, but also be able to tell if you thought that last commercial or ad was humorous. Putting aside the Orwellian aspects of this in respect to society in general, there may be unforeseen benefits associated with these developments. Autism researchers have begun to explore uses for this technology as well.

It has long been observed that individuals on the autism spectrum have displayed challenges in social situations - in the area of emotion interpretation in particular. According to a study by Lawton and Reichenberg-Ullman (2007), 66% of respondents with ASD and other developmental challenges have trouble recognizing faces. While these and similar studies suggest that children and adults with autism have challenges recognizing facial patterns - and therefore associating the individualized, social significance that they represent, recent focus has been on their reaction to typically emotion generating facial expressions in general. These factors may well be connected since typically developing peers learn very early on that their parents' faces and facial expressions are significant - and the child's recognition of these expressions is rewarded. Studies have shown that a significant number of very young children with ASD respond differently to images of their parents' faces. In other words, if there is an early challenge associated with recognizing the significance of parents' faces, (and the reinforcement generated from this is therefore absent) the skill of emotional reading may not develop later in life.

If this is the case, it would seem that any future efforts associated with using facial recognition technologies in the world of ASD need to be introduced very early on to be most effective. How this technology takes shape in the autism field is still being explored. The University of Victoria's Centre for Autism Research Technology and Education has developed a facial recognition game which requires the user to match facial expressions displayed on a screen to level-up. There are also several apps which children on the spectrum can access on I-Pads that have been designed for this issue, such as "Look in My Eyes: Steam Train" and "Smile at Me". While the nuances associated with facial expressions (and their complicated role in social interaction) are vast, the ever increasing technological advances in computer software may be able to create effective and beneficial treatments in this area of autism treatment.

Mr. Jeffrey Young is the President and Founder of Innovative Piano, Inc. Mr. Young has published over 17 books dealing with music and autism. To learn more about the author and the program please visit http://www.innovativepiano.com/

Innovative Piano, Inc.

Offering piano lessons for students with autism - Nationwide!

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