Whole-Body Interaction Videogames Could Promote Social Initiation Skills in Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Indicates a work published in Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders by Narcís Parés, a member of the Cognitive Media Technologies research group, with researchers from the Hospital of Sant Joan de Déu and Mutua Terrassa, carried out in a group of children with TEA from 4 to 6 years of age.

autistic spectrum disorders
Screenshot of the video game Pico's Adventure, level 3

Communicating with other people is one of the greatest difficulties of children with autism. Asking for help, initiating a social interaction and sharing their emotions become skills that need to be learned from exercises and therapies. Gaming-based interventions that imply the use of technology have shown to facilitate motivation and learning processes in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (TEA).

Narcís Parés , member of the research group  Cognitive Media Technologies , from the Department of Information Technology and Communications ( DTIC ) of the UPF, is working on the research line called ” full body interaction “. In his laboratory, he designs different applications based on this interaction in order to study the mediation of experiences. Together with the Sant Joan de Déu Hospital,  Pico’s Adventure , a video game based on the whole body interaction that promotes social communication among participants, created.

Pico’s Adventure , an interactive whole-body video game that is used as a tool to promote social initiation behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders

The video game aims to  facilitate the social interaction of children with autism  through a series of fun and collaborative experiences. As Parés points out, “the first experimental studies showed their effectiveness as a complement to conventional therapies.” “Since then, Pico’s Adventure has become an important reference in the search for ICT-based tools to encourage The social initiation behaviors in children with autism spectrum disorders. “

The entire video game studied has shown that it promotes social initiation more than free games

In a recent study, published in an advanced online edition of Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders , a group of 15 children from 4 to 6 years with TEA diagnosis have participated in four sessions in which they have played with the Pico’s Adventure videogame and also with other types of games. The research has been directed by Narcís Parés , in collaboration with researchers from the Hospital of Sant Joan de Déu and Mutua Terrassa, who have studied the behavior of the participants according to an observational scale.

The goal of this observational research was to study social initiation behaviors using a whole body interaction video game in comparison to the amount of social initiation behaviors occurring during a free play activity in children with TEA. “For free play in this case, we refer to games with toys (prams, dolls, balls, etc.), alone or with a couple, without any script or rules,” explains Parés . Provoke a higher number of social behaviors and, therefore, this technology could be proposed as a tool to promote social initiation skills.

The videogame has also been shown to be more effective in reducing repetitive behaviors and in improving gestural expression of children

The results have shown that the video game favors more social initiation behaviors than free games, in children with TEA when they play alone or in pairs. In addition, when the child played with their parents, the video game has proved to be as effective as free games in promoting social initiation. The video game has proved to be equally effective in reducing repetitive behaviors and increasing gestural expression of children. Video games could be considered as an appropriate tool to promote social behaviors and also be useful as a complement to the usual treatments, but “it is necessary to continue working to support this hypothesis,” researchers say.