Latest Issue of Science News


Children get social with virtual peers

Life-size 3-D versions of children can draw kids with autism into social encounters

PARK CITY, Utah — Children with autism and related developmental disorders typically can’t carry on a conversation or play cooperatively with peers. Encouragingly, though, life-size virtual youngsters displayed on large computer screens can draw kids with autism into social encounters, psychologist Justine Cassell of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., reported June 5 at a meeting of the Jean Piaget Society, which focuses on research about psychological development.

In a preliminary investigation, Cassell and her colleagues examined turn-taking and other conversational skills in 12 pairs of 7- to 11-year-olds. In six pairs, children with autism were partnered with peers of their choosing who had no developmental conditions. In another six pairs, youngsters free of developmental problems worked with partners who also had no developmental complications.

Note: To comment, Science News subscribing members must now establish a separate login relationship with Disqus. Click the Disqus icon below, enter your e-mail and click “forgot password” to reset your password. You may also log into Disqus using Facebook, Twitter or Google.

This article is available only to subscribing members. Join SSP today or Log in.