Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have an affinity for video and computer games. CAR's FaceStation project is designed to capitalize on this interest and use computerized games as a therapy.
Children with ASD often have difficulty understanding facial expressions and sometimes even in recognizing a person's identity by looking at the face. These difficulties are believed to interfere with more complex social skills like understanding another person's perspective and what they are thinking and feeling. CAR's FaceStation games are designed to enhance face perception skills among children with ASD and thus hopefully improve their social abilities.
FaceStation games build on previous work by CAR's Director, Robert Schultz, Ph.D. and James Tanaka, Ph.D. (at the University of Victoria). As part of an NIH funded project, Doctors Schultz and Tanaka developed Let's Face It! (LFI), a series of games that were shown to enhance perceptual expertise for faces by requiring repeated perceptual discrimination of facial identities and facial expressions.
FaceStation aims to improve on the therapeutic aspects of the LFI games by adding arcade style gaming hooks to further engage players and increase treatment intensity. The idea behind FaceStation is that computerized health games can motivate players to perform a wide range of activities that promote learning and skill development in ways that have the potential to exceed conventional teaching and training methods by tapping "reward" circuits in the brain.
Click the image above to see a demonstration of Train Zoom. This game uses train imagery, which is known to be appealing to many children with ASD. The player must fill train cars tagged with an identity or feeling before the train reaches the station. Faces are launched from the middle of the screen and the player helps the conductor seat as many passengers as possible before time runs out.
Other video demonstrations of games developed at CAR being used in the FaceStation research study can be found by clicking one of the links below:
Support for this project is provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Health Games Research Program.
CAR is currently enrolling children ages 8-18 into a research study to measure the effects of FaceStation. Children participating in the research study will be asked to play a series of computerized games over a 12-week period. Participants will receive brain imaging before and after the gaming intervention to measure any changes in the brain due to game play. Additionally, participating children will receive social, behavioral, intelligence (IQ) and other developmental testing. Parents will be asked to answer questionnaires over the phone, in person, and on paper. Individuals who take part will receive a comprehensive evaluation and report. There is no cost to participate. Families will be paid for their time and reimbursed for their travel costs. For more information, contact CAR at 1-866-570-6524 or email@example.com.