Feedback

Feedback from Nancy-based speech therapists Aurelie Fontaine and Emmanuelle Cubaynes – June 2006

Thousands of heads software and magnetic game

Reaction:

Children loved the game (autistic children who could speak, aged 7-and-a-half to 11-and-a-half).

It enabled us to work on expressing requests and needs, which is sometimes difficult for autistic children, even if that wasn’t the original aim.

For example, when 8-year-old Damien started searching for the game everywhere at the end of the therapy session (he even went through our bags!), we encouraged him to put his request into words.

 

Work on elements used to create facial expressions:

We focused on:

Frowning eyebrows and a tight-lipped mouth to show anger.

Frowning eyebrows and a curled upper lip (with or without protruding tongue) to show disgust

Smiles to express happiness.

An O-shaped mouth and raised eyebrows to show surprise.

A down-turned mouth and eyebrows to show sadness.

A trembling mouth to show fear (or an O-shaped mouth and one frowning eyebrow).

 

Work on facial expressions:

We used various approaches:

Production (created at will or by following instructions)

Recognition (using features themselves or a description on paper)

But we gave the children a lot of leeway to produce expressions spontaneously to encourage them to be creative and experiment. We thought that was essential.

When we worked on a particular emotion during a session, we often found that children used the game to try and reproduce the corresponding facial expression.

Damien (aged 8) and Basile (aged 11 and a half) chose out one expression (eg, joy or surprise) and tried it out again and again, each time changing just one feature, perhaps to reassure themselves that changing a feature such as the hair didn’t actually change the basic emotion expressed.

THE NOTION OF GENERALISATION:

The game is an efficient way of demonstrating the notion of generalisation. For example, Marie Louise had trouble working out which feature she needed to look at to understand a person’s emotion and talked, for example, about “angry hair”. By using the game she realized that changing the colour or cut of the hair didn’t alter the emotion expressed (except in rare cases when sticking up hair showed fear).

THE NOTION OF SYMBOLIC PLAY AND MAKE BELIEVE:

This game enables children to adapt, for example by pretending an eyebrow is a nose. The most striking example is that of Theo (aged 7 and a half) who asked one day, “Where’s the tongue?” (because he wanted to show disgust). We encouraged him to invent, so he created a tongue using eyebrows sticking out of a protruding mouth, which was actually made up of 2 mouths, and then “pretended an eye was a nose”.

For his part, Damien tried to make a disguise by sticking a hairstyle from the game in front of his own hair.

 

CONCLUSION :

This game is fun, valuable, efficient and fulfills a genuine need.

The different formats available (computer game and board game) complement each other. The game enables children, especially autistic children, to work, through play, on important behaviour such as asking, pretending and adapting and makes it easy for them to understand the facial expressions used to display essential emotions (alongside work on the concepts that underly these expressions). We found this was the case with the children we follow (with one exception, who needed 12 sessions to acquire the basic notion of “happy/unhappy”).

In short, the results were very positive! This is a promising game. We hope other autistic children will be able to benefit from it soon.