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Communication and Social Participation: collaborative Technologies for interaction And Learning (COSPATIAL)
Start date: Feb 1, 2009, End date: May 31, 2012 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Description COSPATIAL will create collaborative environments to enhance interaction and learning, addressing in particular the needs of children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders.COSPATIAL will place multi-player virtual reality programs into public schools, aiming to help high-functioning children with autism interact socially with their teachers and normal peers.The project provides a thorough investigation and further development of technologies aimed at learning social skills by children who are typically developing and those with autism. It adopts the Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model to describe the complexity of social competence constructs as a multidimensional framework which assumes reciprocity between the ways individuals behave in social situations. Two categories of technologies for collaborative interaction that have demonstrated the potential to be both feasible and effective for training social skills are targeted: collaborative virtual environments and shared active surfaces. The three specific objectives are:1.- to develop a framework based on the CBT model that explicitly formulates and illustrates how the attributes of collaborative technologies can be used to support the acquisition of social skills;2.- to validate and refine the CBT framework via extensive user studies that entail specific tasks to test software and hardware systems capable of implementing its salient features;3.- to investigate the ability of collaborative technologies to support the transfer and generalization of skills acquired during the specific tested tasks to ability to perform other tasks in the real world.COSPATIAL takes inspiration from the Agile approach which posits the need for quick prototyping by small teams of programmers and designers. The project exploits this approach to foster rapid evaluation through several short cycles of participatory design, implementation, and evaluation of prototypes by involving psychologists and educators.

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