Helping adults with Asperger's syndrome acquire interpersonal understanding: the bubble dialogue computer program

Rajendran, Gnanathusharan (1999). Helping adults with Asperger's syndrome acquire interpersonal understanding: the bubble dialogue computer program. University of Birmingham. M.Phil.

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The aim of this study was to assess if the experience of role-taking improved the interpersonal understanding of two young male adults with Asperger’s syndrome. The research methodology involved the use of the computer program called ‘Bubble Dialogue’1 which presents the beginning of a dialogue between two on-screen protagonists. The participants and I progressed through six theory of mind inspired scenarios in which we continued the dialogues by assuming the characters’ roles. The characters we played communicated through the text we typed into speech and thought bubbles above our characters’ heads. The research aims were to improve the social understanding of adults with Asperger’s syndrome and investigate and describe the nature of autistic thought and speech.
Before and after the Bubble Dialogue experience, the participants were tested with the Wisconsin Card Sort Test and the British Picture Vocabulary Scale. Additionally, their carers were interviewed using Frith, Happé and Siddons (1994) supplementary items for the Vineland Adaptive behavioural Scales to assess if the Bubble Dialogue experience improved the participants’ understanding of mental states in their everyday lives.
Two male adolescents with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (EBD) also completed all six scenarios. Thirty three raters, who were blind to the identities of the four participants, rated their and my (the experimenter’s) scripts along three dimensions: 1) emotionally charged to emotionally flat 2) polite to coarse and 3) pursuing a topic too little to pursing a topic too much.
Analysis revealed that the one of the adults with Asperger’s syndrome’s scripts were rated significantly more emotionally flat and the characters he played were rated as pursing a topic too little (relative to the characters I played) from the other three participants. And on the dimension polite to coarse, all the scripts were rated significantly different from each other apart from the two adolescents with EDB. These findings suggest that although both individuals with Asperger’s syndrome had the same diagnosis, one of them expressed speech and thought which was rated more similar to the two adolescents with EBD, at least on dimensions 1 and 3.
The findings from the battery of tests pre and post the Bubble Dialogue suggest that after the experience of the program there was i) no detectable improvement in the autistic participants’ interpersonal understanding ii) there was no increase in their in their overall cognitive function, but iii) there was improvement in their executive function. The implications of the results are discussed in relation to the theory of mind and executive function hypotheses of autism.
Keywords : Autism, Asperger’s syndrome, Theory of Mind, Computer, Bubble Dialogue.

Type of Work: Thesis (Masters by Research > M.Phil.)
Award Type: Masters by Research > M.Phil.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Faculties (to 1997) > Faculty of Science
School or Department: School of Psychology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology


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