Ponentes Principales / Keynote Speakers

Adam Harris - AsIAm.ie founder (Ireland)

Adam Harris - AsIAm.ie founder (Ireland)

Adam Harris is a 20 year old social entrepreneur and Founder-CEO of AsIAm.ie, an organisation working to build an Ireland where every person with Autism can “live and succeed as they are”. AsIAm.ie provides a central online hub for the Autism community which aims to inform and empower those affected by the condition, their families and supporter. Through online engagement with users, AsIAm creates training programmes and campaigns to engage various aspects of Irish life to understand Autism better and to become more Autism friendly.

Adam founded AsIAm.ie based on his experiences of living with Aspergers Syndrome, a condition on the Autism Spectrum. Adam spent 3 years in Special Education, 5 in mainstream primary education with the support of an incredible Special Needs Assistant and completed Secondary School without the support of an SNA. As Adam benefited from early intervention, he felt the need to do something to give back to the Autism community in Ireland and felt that a poor online presence and a society which does not truly understand the condition were key elements of the challenges people with Autism face, which needed to be addressed.

Today, Adam is a frequent contributor in media and at conferences home and abroad, around Autism issues and the need to have a whole-community approach to Autism. A Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awardee, Adam sits on the Board of Specialisterne Ireland and PRISM DLR and is Patron of Laois Offaly Families for Autism and the Wicklow Triple A Alliance. Adam is also passionate about the need for a greater understanding of Autism in Irish schools, and in that capacity sits on the NCSE Consultative Forum, representing a number of Autism organisations.

Adam hails from Greystones, Co. Wicklow and in his spare time enjoys reading and hanging out with friends.

READ THE INTERVIEW!

Veronica Pensosi has interviewed Adam Harris for ITASD 2017:

Q: Hello Adam, you seem a very young gifted person, in your twenties you have already founded a company. Could you tell us a little bit about this story? 

Thank you! I don't know that I am any more gifted than anyone else to be honest, I think I am where I am today because I had the right people and supports around me when I was growing up and because I am doing something I am passionate about. I really believe that to build an inclusive society for people with Autism we need to re-evaluate our definition and understanding of success - it has to be person-centred and about happiness in life.

So in terms of my own story, I was diagnosed with Aspergers Syndrome when I was 5 years old, spent time in special education, and when I was 8 moved to my local primary school, where I had various supports including a Special Needs Assistant. I went on to go to Secondary School independently and by the time I was 16 I had made friends and was extremely independent. However I felt growing up as a teenager with Autism could be isolating - often you felt no one understood you and you saw peers be isolated often because people did not understand their condition. I wanted to change this so I setup an advocacy website and movement, AsIAm.ie to start a national conversation around life with Autism in Ireland

Q: What is AslAm.ie? What is the purpose of the company?

AsIAm is a charity working to develop a central hub or online community for the Autism Community to share experiences and access information. We believe that lots of the challenges faced by people with Autism come from societal barriers so we work in communities and with lots of different stakeholders around Ireland to build understanding and inclusive practises.

Q: Could you briefly describe the training programmes AsIAm creates and the campaigns to engage various aspects of Irish life to understand Autism better?

AsIAm provides quite a range of training programmes and campaigns to engage stakeholders in gaining a practical insight into life with Autism and the small changes they can make to ensure their school, university, public service or business is as accessible as possible for people with Autism. We provide training in person but are currently developing a range of online training packages to increase our reach. We believe everyone in society should have a basic understanding of Autism, with that knowledge needing to increase depending who the person is and how they may come into contact with someone with Autism (e.g doctors may need a deeper knowledge than police officers). Really we want to start a national conversation on what it is like to live with Autism - Ireland has had this conversation in recent years about mental health and I guess we are trying to replicate that model. A key part of social change is the power of people's stories so at the centre of everything we do is Autistic people and their families sharing experiences and telling their story.

Q: What is the contribution of technological tools in your AsIAm project?

Our emphasis on social media and our website (as an information portal) has been key to enabling us to scale and, relatively quickly, develop name recognition. Our new online training packages will provide a cutting edge learning experience which people can access from their office-  when trying to convince people they need to learn, convenience is key to getting engagement.

Q: What are the challenges that people with autism are facing in Ireland and Europe? Do you think that major awareness could be helpful for them?

Unemployment, social isolation and parity of access to essential services some key examples. I believe being born with Autism can present barriers but I also believe many barriers are created by prejudice and how society operates. What has astounded me during the course of my work is how people are really open to learning and trying to be inclusive but, too often, nobody has ever asked before. We need to rapidly engage the public in a discourse around Autism. Throughout Europe, we have an Autistic population which is entering adulthood in large numbers - if we are serious about mainstreaming that means you mainstream discussion and knowledge among the public, not just professsionals.

Q: How technology could contribute to create this awareness?

I think what is really key is that we have to humanise Autism and the experience of Autism through people's stories and journeys. That is always what captures the publics interest and imagination. To do this, we need to bring our message to platforms which are not exclusive to our community but rather are the talking shops of society and thus harnessing social media will be critical.

Q: What are you expecting from the ITASD conference?

I am most looking forward to attending ITASD. I am looking forward to learning about the different developments happening in the technology space which will enable people with Autism to have a voice, live more independently and participate fully in society.

Events
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Website
www.asiam.ie
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@AsIAmIreland
Sue Fletcher-Watson - University of Edinburgh (UK)

Sue Fletcher-Watson - University of Edinburgh (UK)

Sue is a developmental psychologist based at the University of Edinburgh in the Patrick Wild Centre for the study of autism, intellectual disability and Fragile X syndrome. She is engaged in a range of projects exploring the uses of technology in autism education, support and outcome measurement. In 2010-2014 she directed a team who developed a new iPad app for children on the autism spectrum, and later published the results of a randomised controlled trial of the effects of playing the app. At the same time she launched a special interest group on autism and technology, managing a monthly digest now circulated to more than 300 subscribers worldwide, which has given rise to a web-based autism and technology information resource: www.asdtech.ed.ac.uk She has collaborated with a range of commercial partners to develop new technologies for autistic users, and has investigated technology use in the classroom and at home using qualitative methods to capture rich descriptions of user experiences. Most recently she has begun to advise the BBC, a leading UK TV broadcaster, on making their online games and apps accessible to autistic players. Current research projects include the development of a novel technological tool to support pretend play in autism, and an evaluation of the effects of digital toys and games on peer-interaction in children with autism. Sue regularly offers training on the many uses of technology to support learners with autism across settings and her website features evidence-based app reviews and guides for parents and practitioners, among other resources. You can find out more about Sue’s work at www.dart.ed.ac.uk and by following her on twitter, @suereviews

READ THE INTERVIEW!

Verónica Pensosi has interviewed Sue Fletcher-Watson for ITASD:

Q: Hello Sue, you are a developmental psychologist based at the University of Edinburgh in the Patrick Wild Centre for the study of autism, could you describe more your background and your relation with autism?

I first became interested in autism when volunteering in a school for children with additional needs, when I was a teenager.  That background as a volunteer shaped my career choices. I studied psychology, specialising first in developmental psychology and then autism for my PhD. I am interested in doing work which combines rigorous psychological methods - including well designed qualitative studies - with questions that matter for the community and for practitioners.  I try to work closely with autistic people and their allies in all my projects. 

Q: Could you tell us more on your projects exploring the uses of technology in autism education, support and outcome measurement?

I started in the technology and autism field by leading a project in which we created an app designed to support pre-schoolers with autism to develop their early social communication skills.  During the project we did some user informed design sessions, formal beta-testing and we evaluated the app in a randomised controlled trial.  Since then I’ve started a number of different autism and technology projects including evaluations of how tech is being used in homes and schools, development of new technologies to support play, and investigations of the effects of technology on social interactions with peers. 

Q: We are very interested on your special interest group on autism and technology, could you tell us some insights?

The special interest group took place over three successive years at the International Meeting for Autism Research.  It was a really valuable opportunity to bring together researchers from many disciplines, together with a few family representatives and some commercial operators.  It is clear to me from that work that the technology and autism field requires interdisciplinary working to deliver successful and well-evaluated products. 

Q: What about the Spanish results of your questionnaire on uses of technology?

We circulated a survey asking parents how they used technology with their autistic children at home, and how they felt about that. The survey ran in the UK and Spain, and more recently in Belgium and we’re still trying to pull together all the data. In a nutshell though, the Spanish parents reported a more relaxed attitude to technology use by their autistic children. All countries’ parents noted the potential benefits and their children’s skills, but Spanish parents were less likely to also worry about things like obsessive behaviour or overuse. We wonder if this is because the Spanish press carries fewer alarmist headlines about technology - these claims (rarely drawing on legitimate evidence) are a common feature in the UK media for certain. 

Q: You are advising the BBC, on making their online games and apps accessible to autistic players. Could do give us the essential points?

We talked with the BBC about basic accessibility issues.  Things like minimising the need for reading, removing high-contrast and over-busy visual content, and offering as much personalisation options as they could. They are also developing a new TV show, written by autistic writers with autistic performers, about a boy with autism. So we talked about how to extend that with a paired computer game, not just for autistic players, but also for their non-autistic peers to raise awareness and acceptance. 

Q: This is it not your first ITASD. What are your impressions of the Congress? What are you expecting from this new edition of the Conference?

The thing I like best about the Congress is that it brings together academics with the community and with commercial developers.  I think it is only by working together that we can produce high quality technologies that meet the needs of autistic users and hopefully deliver some benefit - whether that’s learning a new skill or just relaxing and ha

Website
DART
Ouriel Grynszpan - University Pierre et Marie Curie (France)

Ouriel Grynszpan - University Pierre et Marie Curie (France)

Ouriel Grynszpan holds Master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Supélec, France (1996) and Virginia Tech, USA (1996). Before joining academia, he worked as a telecom and software engineer. He received a Ph.D. in cognitive sciences from the University of Paris South (2005). Since 2007, he is an associate professor in Neurosciences at the University Pierre et Marie Curie. He is currently affiliated with the Institute for Intelligent Systems and Robotics (ISIR). He conducts research on social interactions using virtual reality and embodied conversational agents. He led several projects on technology based treatment for autism.

READ THE INTERVIEW!

Ouriel Grynzspam was interviewed by Veronica Pensosi for ITASD:

Q: Hello Ouriel, you have a technological background, owning a degree in electrical engineering, could you tell us how did you ended working on technology based treatment for autism?

After working for a few years as an engineer, I went back to academia to complete a Master's degree in Cognitive Sciences. I met Jean-Claude Martin who was one of our professors and who had started a small project on technology for autism. At that time, in the early 2000s, research on technology for autism was only nascent, but we eventually managed to build a project that lead to a PhD. Interdisciplinarity is key to this field and we were fortunate to have Jacqueline Nadel, a world renowned researcher in Developmental Psychology, join us in this adventure.

Q: You are actually working for the the University Pierre et Marie Curie and we would like to know about your research on social interactions using virtual reality and embodied conversational agents.

We immerse participants in virtual environments where they can interact with avatars that are programmed to have specific reactions. For instance, we conducted research on social gaze. Using eye-tracking devices that compute the direction of gaze in real-time, we were able to recreate pseudo-realistic interactive gaze patterns between human individuals and avatars. These experiments revealed some specific difficulties participants with ASD have to regulate their gaze during social interactions.

Q: How do you think technology could contribute to improve the research on autism?

Understanding what individuals experience in natural environments presents one of the greatest challenges in behavioral sciences. Subtle verbal or non-verbal phenomena that occur during real social interactions are especially difficult to recreate in well controlled lab experiments that typically rely on classical stimulus-response experiments. The use of technology (e.g. virtual reality, avatars, robotics) is advanced as a possible approach to tackle this challenge, because it enables participants to interact with a simulated naturalistic environment that is nevertheless very well controlled.

Ivan Riobo - Georgia Tech Ubicomp Group (USA)

Ivan Riobo - Georgia Tech Ubicomp Group (USA)

Ivan Riobo, MBA, MS is an Affiliated Research Scientist at the Georgia Institute of Technology within the Ubicomp Group at the College of Computing, whose research revolves around understanding how ubiquitous technology can help individuals with autism, their families and community around them in order to develop technologies that improve their quality of life. Ivan, has published in IMFAR, UbiComp as well as other leading conferences in topics at the crossroads of autism and technology. He is also a parent of a child in the Autism Spectrum (ASD) and has been certified as a DIR Floortime therapist, among other certifications. He currently divides his time between research at Gerogia Institute of Technology and teaching Science and Robotics to autistic individuals at The Hirsch Academy, an inclusive school in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

READ THE INTERVIEW!

Veronica Pensosi has interviewed Ivan Riobo for ITASD 2017!:

Q: Hello Ivan, you have a technological background as an Affiliated Research Scientist at the Georgia Institute, could you tell us how did you ended working on technology based treatment for autism?

I have been always fascinated by technology and it’s potential to capture relevant moments during our life. Since I can remember I own and been fascinated with cameras, audio recorders and computers, taking them apart, repairing and putting them back together again. When my first son, Tomás, was born back in 2005 as any new parent fascinated with his child I played countless hours with him enjoying, observing and capturing his development! Overtime, my wife and I started to notice differences in his development compared to his peers at daycare, he was and is so affectionate with us that in the beginning these differences where very hard to point out. Eventually in early 2008 after pediatricians and other doctors failing to identify what we felt was off, he was finally diagnosed with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder. I remember trying to  describe and even show doctors and people around us what we sensed was “off”, but as it usually happens with autistic individuals they won’t do what they normally do if they are taken away from their natural environment. This is when I started wearing GoPro cameras I used to record myself skiing to capture his behaviors and sharing them with the rest of my son’s intervention team. Became so passionate about autism that I became a therapist myself educating myself in autism relational approaches such as DIR Floortime developed by Dr. Stanley Greenspan, which made perfect sense for my son individual profile. At the same time, wearable technology advances with in both wearable high definition cameras and physiological sensors was exponential giving me the final push I needed to dive into the autism field. In 2011 I was introduced to Distinguished Professor Gregory Abowd from Georgia Institute of Technology and 10 months after, I resigned my position in the Financial Control Department for Turner Broadcasting Systems International, INC, and joined his department to develop ubiquitous systems that allow parents, families, researches, clinicians and even individuals with autism to capture in a synchronized multimodal manner behaviors of interest. What this means is to create systems that allows the users to see behaviors where they happen showing not only what is visible, video, but the invisible components of behavior such as heart rate or electrodermal activity.

Q: We would like to understand better how ubiquitous technology can help individuals with autism, their families and community, could you explain?

For starters despite all the research going on we still do not know much about autism, simply put we cannot identify it’s phenotype! The main challenge it presents is that it’s so complex and variable from individual to individual in the way it manifests that we cannot prescribe a single “treatment”, in the end every individual with autism has unique characteristics that require a unique type of intervention to achieve an effective outcome. An added challenging characteristic when studying autism is the massive reactivity these individuals display when they are out of their natural environment, therefore how can we really understand this condition without having lots of data in it’s natural environment. This is where I connected Ubiquitous Computing with the Autism field, since I read Mark Weiser’s article and definition of UbiComp in his Scientific American 1991 article "The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it”, to me this definition among the many implications it has, it meant developing tech that allows us to enhance our daily lives in a way that generates none or little reactivity so that it doesn’t affect the way we naturally behave. My vision is that this kind of technology can have a huge impact in helping individuals with autism, their families and community by helping them:

- Understand better and faster each unique individual at a deeper level to better indicate an adequate approach.

- Connect & integrate the community around this individual and his family, so that everyone is on the same page.

- Collect huge amounts of valuable data in the wild about autism to understand better the rots of it.

Q: What are the most important topics at the crossroads of autism and technology in your opinion?

Well, like I implied before I think that connecting and integrating the community around autism, while making the lives of the families with autistic individuals less burdened it’s one huge area. While another is allowing the researchers to gather valuable data regarding autism where it happens, this has enormous potential regarding treatment effectiveness as well as providing a deeper understanding of this condition.

Q: It is your first ITASD. What do you expect from the ITASD Conference?

Yes it is, and I’m very excited to meet everyone! I expect to connect and find ways to collaborate!

Jelle van Dijk - University of Twente (The Netherlands)

Jelle van Dijk - University of Twente (The Netherlands)

Jelle is a design-researcher at the University of Twente (“High Tech - Human Touch”) and a research fellow at the Design Lab Twente, Netherlands. He has a background in Cognitive Science and a Phd in Industrial Design on the design of Tangible and Embodied Interaction. His current research focuses on designing for Embodied Empowerment. Using Embodied theory he investigates how to design new forms of mixed physical-digital interaction may empower people with cognitive- and/or social disabilities in organizing and taking control over their own everyday lives. He takes a participatory design approach and conduct research-through-design.

READ THE INTERVIEW!

Veronica Pensosi has interviewed Jelle van Dijk for ITASD:

Q: Hello Jelle, you describe yourself as researcher, teacher, writer, speaker and you draw comics, very different personalities, could you explain better your different interest?

I guess I just have a very broad interest in many things - and I am bad at choosing one over the other ;-) The research and teaching and speaking all hang together - in a way it is all the same. By teaching I learn and by researching I learn and both are very much integrated activities for me. Even the drawing is part of it although that is really something I do mostly in my spare time, posting cartoons on Twitter. But coming into the design field from cognitive science I discovered that ‘traditional’ science does not take visual forms of communication very seriously: I was brought up in text and mathematical models. Drawing however is an altogether independent means of inquiry and communication of insights: some things can only be drawn, and some things can only be found out drawing. We have a nice workshop on the role of sketching in Human Computer Interaction at the conference Designing Interactive Systems, also in June this year in Edinburgh. I wish there would be much more tolerance in science for alternative means of doing research, with alternative means of presenting that research, for example visually.

Q: You have a technological background in Cognitive Science and a Phd in Industrial Design on the design of Tangible and Embodied Interaction, could you tell us how did you ended working on technology based treatment for autism?

Well, I first found out that I could research some of the most fundamental questions in cognitive science, in particular those pertaining to the ‘mind body problem’ and all of the recent theoretical debates on embodied cognition, distributed cognition, and the extended mind, through design. Especially recent advances in industrial design are very interesting because they basically form a merger of information processing technology (computers) and physical products and spaces. This means that, one might say, technologically there is no longer a split between ‘mind’ (the information processing in a computer) and ‘body’ (physical products and spaces). In practice however these new kinds of mixed interfaces and products still retain much of the old psychological distinctions that come from cognitive science. My aim is to design things that truly are ‘in between’ mind and body, which would mean to take the idea of ‘embodiment’ as explained by for example the philosopher Merleau-Ponty very seriously.

Well, this is the first part of the story. I did my phd on designing interactive objects and spaces for the ‘creative brainstorm process’ of design teams. In other words I was designing (together with my students by the way because they did a lot of the actual design work) technological artifacts for designers! I finished that, but then I thought I wanted to design for a more meaningful context, because I think that in the end designers can pretty much take care of themselves very well, they don’t need me to design their interactive creative spaces for them. I have always had a strong fascination for autism from back when I was studying neuropsychology along with cognitive science. Much attention back then was on the brain: what is happening in the brain, what is wrong with the brain of someone with autism? But now I finally had the terminology and context to work on the interaction between a person and his environment. Because I think all behavior is ultimately the result of a tight interplay between brain, body, and the structure present in the environment. And designers can change this environment, intervening in the loop, perhaps changing things in a positive direction.


Q: Could you describe in simple words your research on the embodiment of human cognition in relation to the design of interactive technology?

So to summarize it very briefly: There’s a lot of theory out there that says that our thinking and our actions do not originate purely in our brains, but that they are emergent properties out of the interaction between brain, body and environment. My research is about what this shift in thinking means for design. My current understanding of it says that designers need to pay more attention to the way a device (tool, artifact, object, space) influences a person’s bodily skills and routines, his social interactions, how it helps in ‘reflection on action’ and how products help to shape a person’s ‘lifeworld’. For computer artifacts, those are very different topics than computer scientists are used to (e.g. typical things computers do are to store, process and represent information, to provide good models of something, to measure things, to search and retrieve things in databases, and so on). I want to use interactive technology to directly support our ‘embodied being-in-the-world’ instead.

Q: How do you think that using new forms of mixed physical-digital interaction may empower people with cognitive- and/or social disabilities?

In short I think that starting from an embodied perspective holds the promise of creating tools that are in some sense ‘incorporated’ by a person, they become ‘part of that person’ such that whenever the tool assists the person with a task or activity, you could always still say that it is the person doing it, and not the tool. So you could say: I am doing this (with this tool that is so much part of me that I do not even notice it anymore), which would be very different from saying: I cannot do this, because I have an impairment, and therefore there is this tool that does it for me. In the latter case, the person would still be dependent, and ‘impaired’, even if he is no longer relying on an actual person but on a technology instead. But in the former, the tool would truly be empowering - at least this is how I came to see empowerment when using the embodied perspective to frame it.

Q: What do you expect from the ITASD Conference?

I expect to meet a lot of people that know a lot about autism, because I am still relatively new to the field, and so I hope to learn a lot!

Javier Arnáiz - Autismo Burgos (España)

Javier Arnáiz - Autismo Burgos (España)

Javier Arnaiz is a professor of special education and a pedagogue. During his professional career, he has been involved in Burgos Autism through different positions, all of them related to special education of children with ASD (professor of a classroom, director of a concerted school specific for children with ASD El Alba and advisor). In the education field, he has participated in several European projects, as well as national and international congresses as member of his scientific committees or organizations. His duty as developer of the Centers of Training and Innovation of Teachers, Universities and Centers of Socio-Sanitary Training extends to numerous Autonomous Communities. Javier has also participated in numerous groups of work and commissions concentrated in the education for children with ASD (groups of work of the Spanish Autism Federation, Commission of Education of the CERMI cyl, adviser of the Autism Federation of Cyl…). Actually, he is the member of the Board of Directors of the Spanish Association of Autism Professionals (AETAPI) and the representative of the Commission of Education of the CERMI of Castilla and Leon.

READ THE INTERVIEW!

Veronica Pensosi has interviewed Javier Arnaiz for ITASD:

Q: Hello, Javier, you are special education teacher and educator completely dedicated to autism. Can you tell us how your relationship with autism started?

My link with autism started twenty years ago accidentally, but very intensively. By that time men in Spain had to made military service or an equivalent social work. This later one made me visit Autismo Burgos and something caught me until now. At the faculty of education we haven’t talk about autism, only two paragraphs mentioned it within a book of psycho-biopathology, so when I started my collaboration with Autismo Burgos school I had big motivation but no knowledge at all about ASD.

Q: You work for Autismo Burgos, where technologies have been considered from their very beginning. What advantages do technologies offer to people with autism? 

Nowadays, technologies are part of daily routine of people with autism, we cannot think about their learning and leisure without the technology. I think this is the main success achieved by teachers and technology developers. The application of technology to ASD is a reality. Some of the advantages and strengths of IT for ASD are obvious: availability, visual processing, stimulation control, time management. Also, technologies help for learning and self-determination (including communication, choosing alternatives, …), especially when technologies are flexible and adaptable enough. And technologies are also facilitating the advance of research on every other discipline, allowing a deeper and better understanding of autism.

Q: Your role as a trainer is well known in Spain and other countries. Can you tell us a bit more about this important work you are developing?

Autism, due to its universality and specificity, makes easier the interchange of knowledge and expertise among professionals, without language or culture being a barrier for doing so. AUTISM CULTURE is universal and, therefore, every interchange experience is very enriching for everyone.

Q: You have already participated in previous ITASD editions. What is your opinion about the Conference? And your expectations for this new edition?

If something identifies ITASD is it innovative nature and, at the same time, its practical implications. It is evident that a forum of this nature must highlight the most innovative aspects, but ITASD also knows how to combine this aspect with another important one: the impact of IT on the quality of life of the individual. The existence of a specific forum focused in people with ASD and IT has implications about the importance of IT for people with autism, and about autism specificity itself. IT = visual processing = ASD.

I believe all professionals, people with ASD and their families will go back to home with multiples ideas, supports, projects to develop and tools to benefit from.

María Montesclaros Hortigüela - Burgos University Teaching Hospital (Spain)

María Montesclaros Hortigüela - Burgos University Teaching Hospital (Spain)

María Montesclaros Hortigüela gratuated as Medical Doctor at Navarra University, Spain. 2003-2009. Then she became Pediatrics specialist. Burgos University Teaching Hospital, Spain. 2010-2014 and obtained a Degree on Child Neurology at Niño Jesús Pediatrics University Teaching Hospital, Madrid, Spain. 2014-2016. She is currently Medical Doctor at Pediatrics Department of Burgos University Teaching Hospital, Spain.

READ THE INTERVIEW!

Verónica Pensosi talked with María Montesclaros Hortigüela regarding ITASD 2017:

Q: Hi Maria, you have a B.A. in Medicine by the University of Navarra. Could you tell us about your interest in autism?

My interest in autism started seven years ago, when I had a position in Paediatrics. The paediatrician is usually the first specialist who has contact with those children and their families. So it is very important to have adequate training, in order to know the early symptoms and to be able to provide an early diagnosis. Later I became specialist in Neuro-Paediatrics at the Hospital “Niño Jesús” in Madrid, where I had the opportunity to learn more about this condition.

Q: What are your current responsibilities with children with autism at the University Teaching Hospital in Burgos? 

My responsibility as a Neuro-Paediatrician, both at my position and as part of the BB Miradas Project is to provide families with the earliest possible diagnosis, so that their children can benefit from early intervention programs. We know that early detection of ASD and the early onset of an early intervention program improves future outcomes, with better cognitive and adaptive skills and sometimes modifying the course of development. Also, an early diagnosis facilitates families the understanding and communication with the child, and is also an important support for them. Another responsibility is to identify and treat possible comorbidities frequently associated with ASD (such as epilepsy, sleep disorders, behaviour disorders, etc.)

Q: Do you think technology can be of help for people with autism?

Of course, there are several technological tools aimed at helping children with autism to better express through pictograms or pictures, for education, attention training and executive functioning.

Q: Can you tell us about your intervention at ITASD?

During my intervention at ITASD I would like to inform about the work we are developing with the project BB Miradas. This is a pilot experimental project tthat wants to be spread at national level. The project is framed in the National Strategy for Autism. BBMiradas aims to identify early signals of ASD, specially analysing eye-direction, with the aim of allowing the child the possibility of accessing an early intervention as possible. We are using Tobii Pro TX300 for eye-tracking measuring. This device offer an accuracy of 0,4 degrees in the visual angle within a range of 300 Herz. It allows to track head movements in a 50-80 cm distance from the screen. We are applying ocular fixation filters to define the amount of visual fixing in eyes, mouth, body and distractors (both in intensity and length). This tool has been selected due to its ecological validity and because we depart from related work in Australia, USA and Canada where this technology has been used with relevant results.

Q: What do you expect from this conference?

I would like to know about other types of technologies being applied for autism, that also helps to improve the quality of life of people with ASD.

Mark Brosnan - University of Bath (UK)

Mark Brosnan - University of Bath (UK)

Brosnan is Professor of Psychology at the University of Bath (UK) and Director of the Centre for Applied Autism research (CAAR: http://go.bath.ac.uk/caar). Brosnan is a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society (BPS) and a member of the Cognitive Psychology Section and the Division of Neuropsychology. Brosnan's research examines how children with autism can be involved within the design of computer-based tutors. He is part of a team (with Johnson, Benton, Grawemeyer from Computer Science) that have developed protocols for 'participatory design' that effectively support children with autism to be active design partners. This has informed a series of design principles that have guided the development of a mathematics tutor - designed by people with autism for people with autism. This process has provided unique insights into how those with autism would like computer-based learning to look and work. These have been applied to the development of an iPad app to support the effective development and delivery of social stories (with Johnson, Smith and Constantin: http://go.bath.ac.uk/social-stories). Brosnan is currently working with colleagues across Europe on a project to match autistic people with the most appropriate digital technology (www.smart-asd.eu), a project to identify best teaching practice within autism-specific education (AMUSE) and a project to identify evidence-based practice guidelines for digital technologies that support the autistic community. A free app called 'asc me I.T.' allows the autistic community to input into the earliest stages of the technology design process by sharing their ideas with researchers (with Parsons, Yuill, Good: www.ascme-it.org.uk).
Rosalind Picard. Founder and Director of the Affective Computing Research Group, MIT Media Laboratory (USA)

Rosalind Picard. Founder and Director of the Affective Computing Research Group, MIT Media Laboratory (USA)

Professor Rosalind W. Picard, Sc.D. is founder and director of the Affective Computing Research Group at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab, co-director of the Media Lab's Advancing Wellbeing Initiative, and faculty chair of MIT's Mind Hand Heart Initiative. She has co-founded Empatica, Inc. creating wearable sensors and analytics to improve health, and Affectiva, Inc. delivering technology to help measure and communicate emotion.

Picard holds a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering with highest honors from the Georgia Institute of Technology, and master's and doctorate degrees, both in electrical engineering and computer science, from MIT. She is a top-cited computer scientist, best known for authoring the book Affective Computing, which became instrumental in starting a new field by that name. Picard also served as a founding member of the IEEE Technical Committee on Wearable Information Systems in 1998, helping launch the field of wearable computing. Picard is an active inventor and her group's inventions have been twice named to "top ten" lists, including the New York Times Magazine's Best Ideas of 2006 for their Social Cue Reader, used in autism, and 2011's Popular Science Top Ten Inventions for a Mirror that Monitors Vital Signs. Her inventions have applications in autism, epilepsy, depression, PTSD, sleep, stress, dementia, autonomic nervous system disorders, human and machine learning, market research, health behavior change, and human-robot interaction.
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