The app created during the Click-East project was nominated for a Rosalind Franklin Appathon award: here's the video
The Click-East project was divided into two main stages. The first stage was about developing an educational iPad app for young children with autism. It involved a range of different people who contributed to the development of the game in different ways. At the University of Edinburgh the project received contributions from computer programmers and human-computer interaction specialists in the School of Informatics and from animators at the Edinburgh College of Art, as well as myself, a developmental psychologist. You can read about contributions from the autism community below.
In Stage Two we tested whether the app we designed had a beneficial effect for children with autism. We used a rigorously-designed randomised controlled trial, registered on both the UK Clinical Research Network study portfolio and on the National Institute of Health clinical trials register. It was our hope that by learning and practising basic social and communication skills in a safe and fun way, children would start to show these skills in real life too. Using a computer game as a learning tool plays to the strengths of children with autism, who often show a strong preference for technology and a lot of ability in this area.
We recruited 54 children aged under 6 years old who all had a diagnosis of autism, and they were randomly sorted into intervention (working with the iPad™ for 2 months) and control (no special support) groups. The game was enjoyed by the children and rated highly by parents – children played for about ten minutes per day consistently across the 2 month period, and they got better at the game, regardless of their general ability level.
However the assessments we did with children before and after working with the iPad™ showed that the game didn’t change children’s social behaviours in the real world. We measured this using parent questionnaires and also by observing children while playing with their parent.
We recommend caution about the potential usefulness of iPad™ apps, especially for teaching interactive skills. However, positive attitudes among participants, lack of negative effects and the potential of apps to provide cheap, accessible learning opportunities suggest this approach is worth pursuing further, perhaps targeting other types of learning.
During the design phase, we collected a lot of feedback on the game from typically-developing children, parents of children with autism spectrum disorders, teachers and nursery nurses providing specialist provision for children with autism spectrum disorders, speech and language therapists and young adults with an autism spectrum diagnosis.
We also worked with autistic people and parents of children with autism to develop the materials we used to inform families about the study.
This library item contains four published articles and four conference posters, all free to download, and all reporting on the Click-East project.
- This library item has a couple of videos and some slides focused on Stage One of the prohect – designing an app for autistic users.
- After the trial was completed, Sue gave a lecture to the Sheffield Autism Research Lab about the project, and the wider lessons learned about choosing technologies for autistic users.
Sorry! We don’t have permission to publicly share data from this project.
As part of the Click-East trial we used the Brief Observation of Social Communication Change as an outcome measure. Sue is now a qualified trainer for this excellent new way to sensitively and objectively capture change in young children with autism. You can see information about upcoming courses for BOSCC-users here.
Interface 3 was our commercial partner. To give the app a life beyond the research project (both in terms of lifetime and quality of life) we engaged in a partnership with this award-winning Edinburgh based company. For more about this decision, have a look at this post on the Blog.
- You can download our app here – it is called FindMe and available on iTunes for iPhone and iPad in both Lite and Pro versions.
- There is also a version available for Android devices
- Interface 3 (under the brand name Tigerface Games) also made three more apps for children with autism based on our theoretically-motivated designs.