Understanding and Enhancing Emotional Literacy in Children with Severe Autism Using Facial Recognition Software

Understanding and Enhancing Emotional Literacy in Children with Severe Autism Using Facial Recognition Software

Salima Y Awad Elzouki (Leeds Metropolitan University, UK) and Bridget Cooper (Sunderland University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-183-2.ch006

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This chapter will discuss a project which examines the use of computer technology and facial recognition software to enhance emotional literacy and is one of the few projects specifically designed for young people with severe autism. By studying severely challenging young people, this project begins to address one of the weaknesses in the area of computer-based learning (CBL) for people with autism, identified by Moore (2005 & 2009; cf. Moore’s chapter in this book). The work also builds on previous studies outlined in Moore’s chapter, of the use of computers with young people with autism in relation to theory of mind (ToM) (eg Silver, 2000; Silver and Oakes, 2001; Moore et al, 2005; Cheng 2005). Further, the success of Baldi (a computer-animated tutor) in increasing the vocabulary of children with autism (Bosseler & Massaro, 2003; Williams et. al., 2004) suggested the worth of investigating the use of a similar application to enhance the emotional literacy for young people with autism. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate how the use of animated characters might help young people with severe autism and learning difficulties to recognise facial expressions of emotions, in a safe environment.

The nature of the behaviour and interactions of young people with severe autism, inevitably affected the whole manner in which the study was conducted. For example, it was essential to carry out initial fieldwork to investigate their everyday school life before commencing the computer based studies. We begin therefore, with a detailed narrative about the complex and challenging context and daily routines of the school in which the research took place. Secondly we reflect on the methodology and the findings from an initial study. Next we look at the enhanced methodology for the subsequent study and consider in detail the process and some specific findings, through an extended case study of one young person. We are restricted to discussing only one of the eight cases in detail in this chapter, with only brief mention of the other seven cases, which are discussed fully however, in the final doctoral thesis (Elzouki, 2010). Finally we discuss the lessons we learned from our research with conclusions and recommendations for future work.

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