High-tech tools for those with autism the focus Friday at international conference

Posted at 8:41 PM, May 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-15 22:41:33-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- The world's top researchers in the field of autism are in Sat Lake City for an international conference this weekend, and Friday they looked at new technology that may prove useful to those diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and their families.

From virtual reality to Google Glass, researchers are using the latest technologies to help people with autism.

“A lot of them are really interested in technology, and we're able to use that interest to help them develop new strengths, to develop language, and social skills and to learn new ways to interact with their peers,” said Alison Singer, who is the president of the Autism Science Foundation.

At the Grand America Hotel in Salt Lake City, experts from around the world showed off high-tech tools and how they can be used to aide those with autism.

“One of the hallmark problems with individuals with autism is poor social communication skills," said Samson Cheung, who is a researcher at the University of Kentucky. "Many of the times they are looking at people with a very, very poor eye gaze and other times they have difficulty modulating and speaking in volume."

A Google Glass application works to train those with autism how to interact with others during job interviews.

“If the individual is looking at the person who [they are] talking to, [they are] right in the middle of the camera--you overlay it with a happy face, but as soon as the picture turns away, it will be replaced with a sad face,” Cheung said.

Video games also work to improve language and social skills.

“This is a Me Book; it's a combination of a social narrative and gaming elements," said Nkiruka Uzuegbunam, a researcher. "The idea is can we take the image of a child, bring it into a narrative, combine that with interaction from games--and see if by using that framework does the child learn more, retain more."

Those using the game can see how to wave and interact. Then they practice what they've learned.

“When you see yourself doing these things, you will retain them better and know better what you have to do when you go into the real world,” Uzuegbunam said.

It's technology many say will be a game-changer for autism.

“Use the technology in the beginning to help them gain skills and then use the skills to help them gain more specific social skills so that they can better interact in the real world,” Singer said.

Saturday is the last day of the conference, where they will focus on studies on autism--one of which was conducted by BYU researchers.

Several of those from the conference also joined Max Roth in studio on FOX 13 Live at Four, see the video below for those interviews.