Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Designing Capture Applications to Support the Education of Children with Autism


The authors present three prototype devices for assisting caregivers dealing with children with autism (CWA). The first, called Waldon Monitor (WM), consists of a wearable video camera and Tablet PC for observing and recording the behavior of CWA. Secondly, the Arabis system replaces traditional pencil and paper based recording with a Tablet PC, and is used by caregivers to record a subject's performance in one-on-one testing and diagnosis. Finally, CareLog is a distributed, ubiquitous system for recording data about a child from any wireless accessible device, including a cell phone, PDA, or PC. A therapist can record and access data using any of these devices, which is stored on a mobile storage unit that is co-located with the subject.

The most insightful findings that these studies show is the importance of properly planning for complicated, multi-user interaction with their devices. The proposed systems seem trivial (video recording unit, software for tabulating test scores, etc), until the use cases are presented, which span multiple users at different times, with very different goals for the data, potentially at different stages in the recurring care cycle. That is, a therapist may use CareLog to record data about a CWA in an intermediate phase of the care cycle, and an analyst will use the collected data, aggregated with past results, to make a diagnosis and set goals in the early stages of the next iteration of the cycle.

One area in which the proposed devices can be improved is in CareLog's portable storage unit. Although this is a novel approach, I believe that the same functionality could be achieved with less cost if the data were stored on a remote, web-accessible server, instead of in a device that needs to be carried around the by subject. This way the physical hardware cost is reduced, and the subject can't loose or destroy their own data. Also, using an existing commercial product to perform the data analysis required for these prototypes could reduce the upfront cost, making them easier to adopt by caregivers and therapists.

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