December 15, 2010

Pluff in the Middle East

Interactive Media Used to Help Children with Autism

On November 27, eight SCA faculty and staff traveled to Doha, Qatar to conduct a weeklong workshop in digital storytelling and assistive technology at the Shafallah Center for Children with Special Needs. The SCA group worked closely with Shafallah’s director and twenty therapists, clinicians and teachers to introduce and demonstrate Pluff, an interactive stuffed animal character that will be used initially for children with autism, and digital storytelling, using inexpensive flip cameras which allow children to tell their own stories.

Marientina Gotsis introduces Pluff to a boy at the Shafallah Center

“We think there is great potential in using storytelling for this group, and while watching video has been a popular strategy for working with autistic students, making videos and telling stories through images has not yet been fully explored,” said Holly Willis, the Director of Academic Programs for the Institute for Multimedia Literacy (IML.) “We're eager to participate with our new colleagues in this exciting direction of practice and research.”

The SCA team in Qatar included Willis; Interactive Media Assistant Research Professor Marientina Gotsis; Diana Hughes, an MFA Interactive Media alum and the inventor of Pluff; IMD adjunct Heather Desurvire who is a specialist in project/game usability; Gabriel Peters-Lazaro, a part-time staff and instructor in the IML, and an iMAP Ph.D. candidate; Sonia Seetharaman, the IML Program Coordinator; Yasaman Hashemian, an IMD MFA student and usability data analyst, and SCA Associate Dean for Administration and International Projects, Alan Baker.

“They are extremely passionate and caring about what they do and were eager to share ideas with us and each other,” said Gotsis via email. “We were very impressed and honored by their level of participation.”