Conference Abstracts - Mark Riedl

Interactive Social Stories for Young Adults with High-Functioning Autism Spectrum Disorders

Mark Riedl
School of Interactive Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have very individualistic needs, abilities, and are surrounded by very different social contexts. Consequently, special education and therapeutic interventions often need to be adapted to a particular individual. We are interested in developing systems that can help adolescents with high-functioning ASD (HFASD) rehearse and learn social skills with reduced aide from parents, guardians, teachers, and therapists.

We explore an approach to social skills training in game-like virtual worlds. Specifically, we investigate a novel interaction modality called interactive storytelling, in which a user role-plays in a virtual world. Evidence suggests that children and young adults are drawn to computer technology and games. However, we recognize that there is not a one-size-fits-all solution to social skills training for young adults with HFASD. That is, it is intractable to provide a library of social scenarios that will meet the needs of all potential users. Further, the process of preparing personalized social scenarios may involve technical skills and pedagogical expertise beyond the abilities of the average caregiver. The interactive storytelling approach brings to bear artificially intelligent technologies that can adapt the game to the actions, needs, and abilities of the individual user.

Consequently, computer technology is only part of the equation and intelligent reasoning about social scenarios and user needs can help deliver scalable, personalized social skills training. Our research explores techniques for automatically acquiring and generating social scenario information for the purpose of creating and executing social scenarios in virtual worlds. The long-term vision is a suite of semi-automated technologies that will provide relevant and personalized social skill training opportunities to young adults with HFASD. We further speculate on the uses of interactive storytelling for assisting individuals with disabilities to prepare for the workplace.

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