University of Sussex
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An investigation of other-awareness and the collaborative process in low-functioning children with autism using shareable technology

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posted on 2023-06-08, 23:44 authored by Samantha HoltSamantha Holt
Very little is known about the ability of low-functioning children with autism (LFA) to engage in collaborative activities. Children with autism have deficits in other-awareness, joint attention and imitation, skills considered fundamental in social cognition and associated with the ability to collaborate. Research has focused on identifying the impairments of LFA children’s social interactional abilities in controlled experimental contexts with adult partners. However, there is a paucity of research investigating if LFA children can participate in collaborative activity with peers, and if so what form the collaborative behaviour takes. Children with autism are highly motivated to interact with technology and technology is evolving fast offering opportunities to apply it to research. Therefore, we used innovative technology and a novel software architecture called Separate Control of Shared Space (SCoSS) on three types of shareable computer technology to aid our investigation of other-awareness and collaboration in LFA children. Paper 1, describes two studies using a dual-control laptop to present picture-sorting tasks to children paired with an adult and peer. SCoSS was more effective at facilitating other-awareness in TD and LFA children than a standard interface. Crucially, LFA children showed no active other-awareness without the supportive interface. Paper 2 presented two different picture-sorting problems for pairs of LFA children to solve. This yielded a model of collaborative problem-solving based on a sequence of three prerequisite capacities. Paper 3 successfully applied the SCoSS framework to picture-sequencing tasks delivered via tablet technology. As in paper 1, pairs of LFA children were only actively aware of a peer using linked dual-tablets, analogous to SCoSS. In summary, the thesis presents evidence that the other-awareness of LFA children can be facilitated by technology to support collaborative problem-solving, providing a more complete profile of their abilities and offers evidence that LFA are sensitive to the type of collaborative partner.


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University of Sussex

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