App developers and education and informatics researchers from the University of Edinburgh have collaborated on a new iPad game called FindMe — the first-ever attempt to fuse autism research with iPad gaming. The app could help improve social skills in autistic children as young as 18 months.
Children with autism have a strong visual memory, but they cannot use a mouse or keyboard; they can, however, use touchscreens, tablets, and other mobile technologies. Like most children’s games, FindMe is very simple. It challenges children to find an onscreen character in different scenes. Using the iPad’s touch screen, players simply tap the character to move onto the next, more complex level.
While it may be a simple visual exercise for children who are not autistic, children who are may find it challenging to “see” the person due to non-human objects and other distractions. Each time the child correctly identifies the person in the scene, they are rewarded with a cartoon animation sequence. Each level becomes more complex with the ultimate goal being to help children practice simple social skills repetitively.
Versions of the game under development will focus on other common difficulties in autism, such as being unable to follow a pointing finger or monitor where another person is looking.