HELPING CHILDREN WITH AUTISM

FindMe is a visually attractive game

Tigerface LogoFindMe is a game for iPad, iPod Touch and iPhone created by Tigerface, an award-winning educational games company based at the University of Edinburgh. With over 85,000 downloads, it’s proving to be a runaway success in helping young children with autism practice simple social skills. Now, the university’s commercialisation arm, ERI – Edinburgh Research and Innovation – has awarded further licenses to the games developer to create a suite of three games to expand the range of apps to improve the social skills of autistic pre-schoolers.

The game can be played by children as young as 18 months and doesn’t require any language or reading skills. The idea of the game is simple – find the person in the scene and tap on them. As the levels increase, it becomes harder to spot the person as more and more distracting thing (plants, animals, toys) appear on the screen.

Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson with the app
Dr Sue Fletcher-Watson
with the app
It’s the brainchild of Dr. Sue Fletcher Watson, a Chancellor’s Fellow within the Institute of Education, Community and Society at the University. She led a team who developed the research-based apps for young children with autism in a Nuffield Foundation Project. As she explains, “Research tells us that early intervention is key to helping children with autism develop good social and communication skills. We also know that a lot of autistic children have a preference for using computers. The iPad apps we’ve developed with Tigerface Games represent a unique coming-together of these two findings in a way which we hope will be of benefit to the community. I’m thrilled that there has been such demand for the FindMe app as it is so important to me to maintain the relevance of my research to the real world.”

Kate Ho MD of Tigerface Ganes
Kate Ho
MD of Tigerface Ganes
What the company now wants to do is expand beyond collaborative learning games. So it will use these licenses to realise its vision of making social skills easier to learn and practise with tablet based applications. It will mean that it can speed up the development of new games. Indeed, Kate Ho, managing director of Tigerface Games, believes that the licences “will enable us to fulfil a rapidly growing demand for games designed to help children with autism. We believe that games designed from the rigours of academic research will provide parents with games that they can trust.”

In the view of Ian Murphy, Head of Strategic Marketing at ERI, “this is a great example of credible knowledge exchange across three areas of the University of Edinburgh to bring about a cutting-edge approach to interactive learning for very young children with autism. We’re delighted to help Tigerface Games bring these new products to the market and assist them in enhancing their education apps portfolio.”

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David Calder has been a broadcast journalist for over 30 years. Before moving to the Caledonian Mercury, he worked for the BBC (national and regional) as well as parts of ITV and the World Service. He worked for prestigious programmes such as The Money Programme, You & Yours, Today and The World at One. He spent two years making mini-documentaries for Radio 5 Live and was a regular correspondent for CBC (Radio Canada). He was a regular reporter on various news and current affairs programmes on BBC Scotland as well as producing or presenting (sometimes both) science, legal affairs and arts programmes. As well as his contributions to the Caledonian Mercury, he is also a freelance producer in Scotland for the satellite channel, Al Jazeera.