Arooj HussainIndustrial Design & Technology BA
Autistic spectrum disorders are neurodevelopment disorders that stem from an irregularity in the development of the brain. Recent figures show that approximately 700,000 people in the UK are on the spectrum. Individuals with autism have difficulties relating to, and interacting with, others around them. This social interaction deficit has become more prominent especially in the school environment. Oliver is a multi-sensory learning toy developed through a co-design approach to encourage a collaborative approach to play. The interactive toy provides a platform for children with autism where they are motivated to develop their social interaction skills, specifically focusing on turn taking and sharing. A comprehensive research study was conducted to gain a deep understanding of autism adopting a range of research methods including user observations, expert interviews and stakeholder questionnaires. A research triangulation evaluation method was also applied where insights were gained from experts regarding design decisions. The stakeholders included toy designers, teachers, autism consultants, speech therapists and the target user group. The gameplay involves children taking turns to position Oliver's legs in place on each illuminated base. The child has to keep both hands in place to receive the final reward. As a result, two children are required to play at any one given time. When all four legs are placed correctly, Oliver's head pops up and the LEDs change configuration allowing the game to be played again. This gameplay encourages children to work together to achieve a shared goal by rewarding them on the successful completion of the game.