FA16- Project 11 week 17


The general topic of interest is that social cognition can help a child develop better socially by applying a board game that will help children recognize their different strengths and when to positively engage socially with others. Natalie I. Berger and Brooke Ingersoll, expressed that children with autism spectrum disorder demonstrate increased social attention in response to contingent imitation by an adult (Berger & Ingersoll, 2013). When children age, they depend on adults, like parents, to express correct and positive ways of life. They are very observant, and mock the way adults do things. Without correction, this will become something that the children learned. Behaviors such as learning how to share or communicate properly, are great behaviors learned from adults.

“Instructional learning… is inseparable from an understanding that other people have the communicative intent to teach or convey information (Agnetta, B., & Rochat, P. 2004). The authors clearly state that people have communicative intent to teach (Agnetta, B., & Rochat, P. 2004), Use quotation only as a last resort. Always use your own words in scientific writing. or they have an innate capacity to teach or relay information to others. With disorders, such as cerebral palsy, children need constant physical and occupational therapy (Sandlund, M. et al 2012). A study done by E. O’Connor et al, expresses that massively multiplayer online games, are viewed as a virtual world, and players use it as a role-playing game (2015) Role playing games are created to give a more directed or influenced feel. The gamer is the actual person in the game in which he or she can express themselves in ways they cannot in real life. What does this have in common with children that have disabilities? Children with disabilities may not have the means to communicate effectively. This is where gaming comes in. Gaming is a way to express oneself by learning different concepts and using them to complete levels in games. Children tend to focus on face like patterns when viewing images (Csibra, G., & Gergely, G  2006). The work that needs to be conducted to further our knowledge, is examining the effects of gaming and teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, how to effectively socialize with others. This is very important because if the child has siblings, then it would be great for the child to learn how to socialize positively with them ( Dyson, Liley L. 1996). The questions remaining are: How will I create a game, in which someone with a disorder like Autism Spectrum Disorder, to effectively socialize with others? Will my game have any downfall or repercussions when I produce it in front of a experimental population?

To test my theory, I will develop a board game like a puzzle. The name of this board game “Feed the Monster”. The game consists of a cardboard monster named Willie who’s very hungry. The monster and cardboard food, are very colorful with different shapes on them. Willie has holes that are shaped differently than each other. For example, Willie will have a square, and the child must place the appropriate shape into the square space. My study will satisfy the needs of effectively socializing with others by pairing a child with autism with a child without any disorders. This will create productivity in socialization and learning fundamentally, by working together to complete the task at hand. It is predicted that, through acquisition of a board game, children with disabilities will be able to learn and perceive better social skill.



Subjects will be recruited from a school research subject pool at Brooklyn Autism Center in Brooklyn, New York. Brooklyn Autism Center (2016) is a school that deals with data- based scientific research, Applied Behavior Analysis. Volunteers will be between the ages of 12-18 years old. These volunteers were recruited through a brief survey asking parents about any behavioral problems they are going through, that they may need help with.  Per Autism Speaks, everyone who suffers from Autism Spectrum Disorder are significantly different (2016). Many individuals have developed special abilities in visual skills, music, and academic skills. Some individuals have significant disability and are unable to live alone. Students were chosen based on their “special abilities”. The children with great visual skills were chosen to be the control. The children that had great abilities in music were the experimental group. The subjects were assigned to each group by a simple test of completing a puzzle and the amount of time it took them to complete it, if they completed it at all. The visual skills group tended to easily group shapes together, in which the children skilled in music had difficulty. The average age of the subjects were 15 years old. Other demographics were that the children were male and female, of any ethnicity, but American born. They must attend and American school or any disability programs. The subjects were motivated to participate by receiving movie tickets for a new ASD movie.


The materials that I used to collect data were recording behaviors through a two-way mirror. The collection of data was then recorded on a spreadsheet that showed how long a subject took to place the shapes in the right place. It also showed the different behaviors and how often they occurred throughout the game. It would be the first time this game would be used. The subjects were motivated to participate by receiving movie tickets for a new ASD movie.

This game is a proto-type; in which it is the first time it would be used. Participants will play a board game, “Willie the Monster”. That is designed to fit shapes into the correct space to feed the monster. In the first part, participants will be asked to match the different shapes with the appropriate spaces. Their results will then be recorded, by charting the amount they got right and the amount they got wrong. The second part of the experiment, is for the participant to take the shapes and place them in their original spaces with the help of a child without ASD. Behaviors are then recorded. Doing this will help provide a contrast in behavior relating to their performance.

The game is being developed using a data-based scientific research. The game will take place in a classroom setting. The experimental group are the students who will play the game with a child that does not have ASD, a typically developing child. The control group are the kids that will play the same game without a typically developing child to help. Subjects were told that they will be playing a game in which they had to feed the monster, by placing the appropriate shapes in the spaces. If they did not complete the game in time, then the monster will be hungry. The collection of data was recorded on a bar- graph to show the ranges of behavior when working with another child. There were 10 trials for the game.


At one time, there are 4 groups with 4 players in each group, engaged in the game. The players act competitive in the game. The primary objective of the game is to place all the shapes in their appropriate space in the given time. The game objective reinforces the learning objective. The rules of the game are: select a beginning shape. (ex. Circle, square, rectangle, etc.) Then the timer starts for 30 seconds. The objective is to place all the shapes in their appropriate spaces. Whoever complete the game first wins. These rules complement the game. It creates a fun, competitive way to learn different shapes, make new friends, and to enjoy an activity during your free time. After each segment of the game, the winner will receive letters to complete the name “Willie”. Once a player receives all the letters, they will be crowned winner, with a “Willie Crown”. Each player will receive cookies to enjoy, while playing the game.


The outcome of my experiment, was that the children that played with the typically developing child, experienced a great change in their social ability. The whole study was to see if a child with ASD can develop better social skills by working with a typically developing child to finish the game. The children that played the game without a typically developing child, were looked at as the control, because they had higher visual skills than the other kids. It was fact that they can look at something and figure it out very quickly. The mean reaction times for the children in the Typically Developing group were 23.25 sec (SD=3.0 sec), the reaction times for the autistic group were 28.69 sec (SD=5.5 sec). My results indicate that the children in the Typically Developing group were faster that the students in the Autistic Group.


Through acquisition of a board game, children with disabilities will be able to learn and perceive better social skills. My results supported my thesis because the children with autism learned to better social skills, and learned to understand the difference between negative and positive behaviors. The autism children that played the board game with the typically developing child experienced a great change in their social ability. The children that played the game without a typically developing child, were the control, because of their higher visual skills that the other children. My experiment might treat certain children to communicate effectively with others. Gaming is a way to express oneself by learning different concepts and using them to complete levels in games.

Further advances in this field can help examine the effects of gaming and teaching children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, how to effectively socialize with others. Per Imitative Games by Agnetta & Rochat, Instructional learning is inseparable from an understanding that other people have the communicative intent to teach or convey information. Sandlund also stated that children need constant physical and occupational therapy. A potential problem with my study is that it may be too easy for children to play. It is very fun to play. Conflict between players may occur when a person completes each segment of the game first. Implications of my study is that the game was chosen to be played by children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. There is also Typically Developing children that also play the game. In which this will prevent players from behaving in inappropriate ways, by having them work together to complete the levels. Once the players place each shape in its appropriate space, completing it in the given time.  There may be challenges that may be presented to the player in the game is making sure each piece fit correctly. Future experiment can be to shorten the time from 30 seconds to 15 seconds to see if the time can change their play time, and correct shape placement.


Berger, N. I., & Ingersoll, B. (2015). An evaluation of imitation recognition abilities in typically developing children and young children with autism spectrum disorder. Autism Research, 8(4), 442-453.

Agnetta, B., & Rochat, P. (2004). Imitative games by 9-, 14-, and 18-month-old infants. Infancy, 6(1), 1-36.

Sandlund, M., Lindh Waterworth, E., & Häger, C. (2011). Using motion interactive games to promote physical activity and enhance motor performance in children with cerebral palsy. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 14(1), 15-21.

Csibra, G., & Gergely, G. (2006). Social learning and social cognition: The case for pedagogy. Processes of change in brain and cognitive development. Attention and performance XXI, 21, 249-274.

Dyson, L. L. (1996). The experiences of families of children with learning disabilities: Parental stress, family functioning, and sibling self-concept. Journal of learning disabilities, 29(3), 280-286.

Brooklyn Autism Center. (2016). Retrieved December 11, 2016, from https://www.brooklynautismcenter.org/

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About Robert O. Duncan

I'm an Assistant Professor of Behavioral Sciences at City University of New York, with joint appointments in Neuroscience and Cognitive Neuroscience. I also have an appointment as a Visiting Scholar at New York University. My research interests include cognitive neuroscience, functional magnetic resonance imaging, glaucoma, neurodegenerative disorders, attention, learning, memory, educational technology, pedagogy, and developing games for education.

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