Short Description of the PhD Project
The project aims at identifying the role of tangible and physical computing in autism early intervention through the augmentation of physical objects and toys with computational and communicational capabilities. The overall research question is: How can we augment physical objects and toys with computational and communicational capabilities to support autism early intervention?
This project is critical of the growing enthusiasm and application of touch-screens and screen-based interaction in various educational settings including early interventions in autism, and it argues for an approach to computing and interactive technology that augments physical objects and environments to better suit the expressiveness and richness of human interaction with the physical world.
The project intends to open up untapped possibilities to better suit the needs and the strengths of autistic children in both educational and domestic settings, and equip them and their carers with physical tools that could better support, for instance, sensory integration, regulation, fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, joint attention, language, social skills, etc.
The research and design process is proposed to be iterative and human-centred starting with background research, followed by design explorations, with iterative prototyping and testing.
The project intends to design not only for those involved in autism early interventions, but also with them including but not limited to the children. In this sense, the candidate is expected to engage with various stakeholders involved in autism care and early intervention and use participatory methods, tools and techniques to design and evaluate proposed solutions. Of particular interest here is the translation of knowledge from early intervention (especially play-based therapy, strength-based and child-led approaches) to participatory research and design in Human Computer Interaction.
The project will be supervised by Dr. Storni, lecturer in Interaction design at the Department of Computer Science and Information Systems. Dr. Salsberg, senior lecturer in Primary Healtcare research - public and patient involvement (PPI) in the School of Medicine will act as joint supervisor. The candidate is expected to join and work in close collaboration with the Autism@UL Special Interest Group at the University of Limerick (https://ulautismsig.ul.ie/ ). The Autism@UL SIG is an interdisciplinary group of people with an interest on autism and autism research: researchers, therapists, family members, autistic students and staff, as well as representatives of autism family organisations in and around Limerick. Within UL the group includes senior Principal Investigators, early career researchers and PhD students from across the University’s faculties and institutions including the Bernal Institute , CSIS , Education , Health Research Institute , the School of Allied Health , KBS and PESS . The SIG will offer access to professionals expertise, family experiences and autistic individuals perspectives.
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