Stories about: games

Snaps from the lab: Developing better autism interventions

How can we better understand and support people with autism? And how can we tell if an intervention is working? Those are among the questions being asked in the Faja Laboratory, where Susan Faja, PhD, and her team study social and cognitive development in children, teens and young adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), using a variety of tools.

Originally on Snapchat, this video walks through some of these studies, including:

  • Individual Development of Executive Attention (IDEA), looking at executive functioning in 2- to 6-year-olds with autism, developmental disability or no developmental concerns. Executive functions include the ability to plan, manage complex or conflicting information, problem-solve and shift between different rules in different situations. By observing young children while they play hands-on tabletop games, Faja’s team is trying to find out: do kids with autism have problems with executive functioning early on, or do problems emerge later as a result of autism itself? The study is an extension of the ongoing GAMES project for 7- to 11-year-olds, in which children play video games designed to boost their executive functions. Faja is also looking to teach parents to use the games with their children at home.
  • Autism Biomarkers Consortium for Clinical Trials (ABC-CT), a multi-institution study that’s seeking objective, reliable measurements of social function and communication in people with autism. “Language, IQ and social assessments are not so sensitive when you’re looking for changes in autism symptoms, especially subtle ones,” says Faja. So her team is using physiologic measures — like EEGs to measure brain activity and eye-tracking technology to measure visual attention — and correlating them with behavioral and cognitive assessments. The ultimate goal is to validate a set of tools that can be used in clinical trials — and in day-to-day practice — to objectively measure and predict how children with ASD will respond to treatment.​
  • Competence in Romance and Understanding Sexual Health (CRUSH), a new study, will enroll young adults with autism and their parents. The goal is to develop curriculum around dating and sexual health that meets the needs of the ASD population, starting with interviews to determine their needs and interests. No evidence-based curricula currently exist for adults on the spectrum, says Faja.

Learn more about current and future projects in the Faja Lab.

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Online science games for kids: What makes a good one?

Photo: whiteafrican/Flickr

My editor put the question to me recently: “Tom, can you do a little research on good online science games for kids?” Turning to the web, I found several sites that offer games for kids to learn about all kinds of science – PBSKids, EdHeads, Ology, and Science Kids are just four that I came across, and the Children’s Hospital Trust has developed games as part of its Generation Cures website. But the question I couldn’t get out of my head was, “What makes a good science game?”

For starters, I asked my six-year-old son, the one who asks me every night at dinner, “Dad, what was the coolest science that you heard about today?” (Word to the wise: explaining stem cells and zebrafish to a six-year-old can be tricky.) His reply: “Thoughtful games, Dad. I like games that make me think.”

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