Using interactive digital media to engage children on the autistic spectrum

  • Alex Woolner

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The incidence of autism is increasing in the U.K., with as many as 1% of children now thought to be affected by an autistic spectrum disorder (ASD). This research explores the potential of emerging interactive digital media to engage children affected by an ASD, and the development of design strategies for future professional work in this field.

    This is accomplished through a literature and state of the art review, and by working alongside families and professionals involved in the provision of care for children with an ASD. As a a result of this process new artefacts have been created, alongside a design methodology for future work.

    The research reveals the need for tailorable low arousal sensory environments within mainstream schools to meet the needs of certain members of the pupil population and demonstrates how interactive digital media can be incorporated into such spaces as part of an holistic approach to a child’s school experience. Using digital media modules trained professionals can work with the child, using the media as a point of engagement.

    The need to take a holistic approach to the design and understanding of such interventions is examined in the light of the Hexagon Spindle model of educational ergonomics developed by Benedyk et al. (2009).

    The action research and reflective practice approaches adopted have led to a recognition that design in this field has a number of influences beyond purely user centred design. To account for this a new model of community centred design has been developed.
    Date of Award2009
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University
    SponsorsArts and Humanities Research Council


    • autism
    • ergonomics
    • user centred design
    • interactive design
    • technology
    • digital media
    • design

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