Chen, R. S. Y. (2021, June). Embodied design for non-speaking Autistic children: the emergence of rhythmical joint action.

In M. Roussou, S. Shahid, J. A. Fails, & M. Landoni (Eds.), Interaction Design and Children (pp. 648–651). Association for Computing Machinery.

ABSTRACT: This Design-Based-Research doctoral study examines an embodied-design technological platform being developed for non-speaking children on the Autism spectrum. The study combines my background in Linguistics, examining the naturally-occurring embodied interactions of Autistic individuals, with a mixed-methodology approach through my Ph.D in Special Education. Autism is clinically characterized by difficulties in social communication and the frequent, intense production of rhythmic motor movement (stimming). The dominance of spoken language in everyday social interaction can exclude such children from being active social participants. How do we design for the inclusive social participation of non-speaking Autistic children by fore-fronting their strengths, and empowering them with communicative agency? Beyond referential language, this study instead returns to embodied action at the core of human interaction: synchrony, coordinated movement, and affective attunement. In this dissertation, I capitalize on the utility of rhythmicity in joint action, as well as the rhythmic quality of stimming by Autistic individuals, to foster rhythmical joint action between Autistic children and their parents and siblings. Through a touch-to-sound technological platform, I surface the body as a conduit through which interaction can happen, reclaiming touch as a basic modality through which rhythmical interaction can occur. Data collection for this project is underway with 12 Autistic children and their families. By combining touch and sound, the platform serves as an environment that promotes intercorporeal rhythmical interaction.