Speakers

Dr Matthew S Goodwin
Dr Matthew S GoodwinInterdisciplinary assistant professor at Northeastern University with joint appointments in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences and College of Computer & Information Science
Dr. Matthew S. Goodwin is an interdisciplinary assistant professor at Northeastern University with joint appointments in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences and College of Computer & Information Science, where he is a founding and key faculty member of a new doctoral program in Personal Health Informatics (PHI) and Director of the Computational Behavioral Science Laboratory (CBSL).

He is also a visiting assistant professor and the former director of Clinical Research at the MIT Media Lab. Goodwin serves on the Executive Board of the International Society for Autism Research, is on the Scientific Advisory Board for Autism Speaks, and has adjunct associate research scientist appointments at Brown University.

He has 20 years of research and clinical experience working with children and adults on the autism spectrum and developing and evaluating innovative technologies for behavioral assessment and intervention, including video and audio capture, telemetric physiological monitors, accelerometry sensors, and digital video/facial recognition systems. Goodwin is co-PI and associate director of the first large-scale collaborative effort by computer and behavioral scientists addressing early diagnosis and interventions for people with autism spectrum disorders, a research project supported by a National Science Foundation Expeditions in Computing Award.

He is also co-PI on a Boston-based Autism Center of Excellence exploring basic mechanisms and innovative interventions in minimally verbal children with autism, funded by the National Institutes of Health. And, most recently, he was awarded a large grant from the Simons Foundation to develop, deploy, and evaluate a multimodal data capture system to unobtrusively, efficiently, and accurately record and analyze behavior and physiology in individuals on the autism spectrum in home settings over time.

Goodwin received his B.A. in psychology from Wheaton College and his MA and PhD, both in experimental psychology, from the University of Rhode Island. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship in Affective Computing in the Media Lab in 2010.

Developing innovative technology to enhance both research and practice in individuals on the autism spectrum

This presentation will demonstrate several innovative technologies being developed to enhance and accelerate research and learning in individuals on the autism spectrum, including wireless sensors for long-term monitoring of physiological arousal in natural settings; devices that can automate the detection of stereotypical hand flapping and body rocking; and unobtrusive audio and video capture systems able to gather records of behaviour and development in home environments.

Olga Bogdashina, MA, PhD
Olga Bogdashina, MA, PhDCo-founder and Programme Leader and Lecturer at the International Autism Institute, KSPU.
Olga Bogdashina, MA, PhD, is Co-founder and Programme Leader and Lecturer at the International Autism Institute, KSPU. She has worked extensively in the field of autism as a teacher, lecturer and researcher.

Since 1994, she has been Director of the first day centre for children with autism in Ukraine and President of the Autism Society of Ukraine.

She is a visiting lecturer at universities in Europe, presents at national and international autism conferences and is an Autism Consultant for services for children and adults.

She is the author of Autism and the Edges of the Known World, Sensory Perceptual Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome, Communication Issues in Autism and Asperger Syndrome and Theory of Mind and the Triad of Perspectives on Autism and Asperger Syndrome, all published by JKP.

Olga has a 25-year-old son with autism and lives in West Yorkshire, UK.

Sensory Perceptual Differences in Autism: Autism as the Intense World Syndrome

Abstract
The ‘intense world syndrome’ interpretation of autism suggests that the autistic person may perceive their surroundings as overwhelmingly intense (due to hyper-reactivity of sensory areas) and aversive and highly stressful (due to a hyper-reactive amygdala, which makes quick and powerful fear associations with usually neutral stimuli). In this view, autism is characterised by hyper-functionality as opposed to hypo-functionality as is often assumed.

We are not conscious of the limitations to our sensory systems (and our ‘normal’ perception) because we have grown up with them and do not know otherwise. In a way, ‘normal’ people have ‘reduced awareness’. However, some autistic individuals are able to perceive much more than any average ‘normal’ person. This ability comes with a price – they are easily overloaded in ‘normal’ situations and their cognitive and language development follow a different route (and, as the consequences, lead to social interaction and social communication problems), and the world they know (construct) is very different from the conventional one.

Dr Ben Robins
Dr Ben RobinsSenior Research Fellow in the School of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire, UK.
Dr. Ben Robins is a Senior Research Fellow in the School of Computer Science at the university of Hertfordshire, UK. Ben’s qualifications and many years of work experience lie in two disciplines: Computer Science and Dance Movement Therapy .  Ben completed his PhD research degree in the school of Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire, focusing on assistive technology for children with autism, bringing together his expertise and experience in these two disciplines. His publications have won several best conference paper awards.

Ben’s research, which started in 2002 in the AURORA Project and continued in the FP6/7 European projects IROMEC and ROBOSKIN, investigates the potential use of robots as therapeutic or educational tools, encouraging basic communication and social interaction skills in children with autism. The IROMEC project targeted children who are prevented from playing, either due to cognitive, developmental or physical impairments and investigated how robotic toys can empower these children to discover the range of play styles from solitary to social and cooperative play. In the ROBOSKIN project Ben has helped to develop cognitive mechanisms that use tactile feedback to improve human-robot interaction capabilities in the application domain of robot assisted play for children with autism. His  current work, part of the KASPAR project, continues the development of the KASPAR robot for children with autism (http://kaspar.herts.ac.uk). This include overseeing clinical studies in collaboration with psychologists in several universities as well as running several long term studies with KASPAR and children with autism in collaboration with schools and medical centres internationally.

In recent years Ben was program co-chair, committee member and special session organiser in several international conferences and has been an invited speaker in workshops, seminars and symposiums in various countries.

Our research investigates the potential use of robots as tools to encourage communication and social interaction skills in children with autism. The talk will present the child-like robot KASPAR, which was developed at the University of Hertfordshire, and the ways in which it can engage autistic children in simple games, and how the robot assumes the role of a social mediator – encouraging children with autism to interact with the robot and with other people (children and adults).

KASPAR has been designed to help teachers and parents support the children in many ways. The talk will present several case study examples taken from play sessions of children with autism at schools, showing possible implementation of KASPAR for therapeutic or educational objectives with the following possible results:

  • KASPAR promotes body awareness and sense of self
  • KASPAR helps to break isolation
  • KASPAR promotes joint attention and sharing of experiences
  • KASPAR helps to explore ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ expressions
  • KASPAR mediates child-child or child-adult interaction
  • KASPAR helps children with autism to better manage collaborative play
  • KASPAR can complement the work in the classroom

Recent case-study examples with children with autism also showed how the interaction with the robot provided the opportunity for basic embodied and cognitive learning, resulting in the emerging awareness of cause and effect by exploring ‘happy’ and ‘sad’ expressions of ‘emotions’.

David Fry
David FryIntroducing Brain in Hand - a cutting-edge assistive technology designed to reduce anxieties for people out and about in the community.
David Fry is Chief Executive Officer of Brain in Hand. David started his career at PwC, where he trained as an accountant, before becoming a business consultant.  David then moved to PA Consulting Group for 10 years, where he was a partner in its Government Business, advising on developing new business and partnerships between the public and private sector.

David has been a director of several healthcare companies, advised on social enterprise and innovation, and is an associate of the Social Research Unit, an independent charity dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of children.

Whilst at Brain in Hand, David has taken the company from early product concepts through rigorous market testing, to commercial launch.  David continues to work closely with the Department of Health, leading autism organisations and an abundance of individuals to ensure the company stays close to its vision and continues to deliver solutions that meets the market’s needs.

Brain in Hand helps individuals with conditions such as autism, anxiety, mild or moderate mental illness, or recovering from brain injury. It helps them to live independently at home and be more effective in education or the workplace.

A cloud-based solution, Brain in Hand enables individuals to access detailed personalised support from their phone – and support staff to monitor the success of interventions from a secure website.

When users encounter a problem in daily life, the phone provides instant access to pre-planned coping strategies, and a monitor to track anxiety levels. There is also the facility for users to request urgent support, enabling users to feel supported and intervention to be rapidly provided when it is needed most. A diary features structured routines for their day and “recipes” for difficult to remember tasks.

As individuals gain greater independence, support organisations also experience significant cost savings; however this is an additional benefit of the system, not the primary driver.

Rosie King
Rosie KingEmmy award winner and young autism ambassador
At just 17 Rosie King has achieved great things. She diagnosed her own Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of nine (a diagnosis that was later confirmed by specialists) and dedicated her considerable talents to raising positive awareness about autism.

With a younger brother and sister severely affected by the condition, this has always been a subject close to Rosie’s heart.

An appearance on a local news segment about the illustrations she’d created for her mother’s books led quickly to an invitation to host a Newsround special called ‘My Autism and Me’, for which Rosie received an Emmy Kid’s Award.

Today, Rosie is a young ambassador for the National Autistic Society, and has worked closely with professionals to improve the quality of education for young people with additional needs in mainstream school.

A TedMed Talk by Rosie in September 2014 about her autism received a standing ovation and has since been viewed 1.5 million times.

Dame Stephanie Shirley
Dame Stephanie ShirleyIT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist and workplace revolutionary.
Dame Stephanie Shirley (age 81) is a successful IT entrepreneur turned ardent philanthropist and workplace revolutionary. Her life story, begins with her arrival in Britain as a five-year old Kindertransport refugee in 1939.

In 1962, she started a software house, F International, that pioneered new work practices and changed the position of professional women, especially in hi-tech.   She went on to create a global business and a personal fortune from nothing with the joy and sadness of raising her only son, Giles, who was born severely autistic.

Since retiring in 1993, her focus has been increasingly on philanthropy based on her strong belief in giving back to society.  In 2009/10 she served as the UK’s first ever national Ambassador for Philanthropy.

Her charitable Shirley Foundation has initiated and funded a number of projects that are pioneering by nature, strategic in impact and significant in money terms.  The focus is on IT and her late son’s disorder of autism.

Dame Stephanie, known as ‘Steve’, was named as one of the 100 most powerful women in Britain in February 2013 by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4.  In January 2014, the Science Council named Dame Stephanie as one of the Top 100 practising scientists in the UK.   Her memoir Let IT Go was published in October 2012 www.let-it-go.co.uk and a Talking Book version (recorded by Dame Stephanie herself) was released in 2014.  Both are available online from Amazon.

In March 2015, Dame Stephanie gave a TED Talk in Vancouver, Canada to a standing ovation from more than a thousand of the world’s most recognised technical entrepreneurs, thinkers, creators and doers.   The Talk has to-date received nearly 700,000 views and the phrase ‘Why do ambitious women have flat heads’ has been quoted everywhere.

Yvonne Crowhurst & Yvonne Smith
Yvonne Crowhurst & Yvonne SmithFrom Wirral Autistic Society’s Autism in Practice team; experts in the use of iPad technology to support people with autism
Yvonne Smith joined Wirral Autistic Society sixteen years ago as a support worker. After holding a number of roles, she trained as a speech therapy assistant and now works for Autism in Practice as a trainer.

Yvonne has led the society’s iPad project, developing a specific course on moving from PECs to speech generate devices.

She now hosts both internal and external training courses on this topic and develops bespoke sessions for individuals, families and social care professionals to aid the transition.

Yvonne Crowhurst has worked for Wirral Autistic Society for 28 years. In 2014 she won the title ‘North West Care Trainer of the Year’ in the Great British Care Awards.

Yvonne is head of Autism in Practice, a training and consultancy company founded by the society. It helps organisations in the public sector (emergency services, education establishments, GP surgeries and prisons) and in the private sector to identify best practice to suit individuals with autism.

Autism in Practice grew out of the success of the society’s internal Autism Practice and Development department.

Set up by Yvonne in 2011, this provides training, advice and bespoke practice sessions for over 800 staff.

At Wirral Autistic Society, 31 adults with autism – some of whom have been non-verbal their entire lives – are finding their voices and expressing their wishes through the use of iPads and the Proloquo2go app.

For many, the experience has been life-changing. Traditionally, people with autism who are able to distinguish between symbols, have been encouraged to communicate through systems such as PECS.

Here, pictures and symbols are printed on small laminated cards, placed within a bulky folder. By contrast, the Proloquo2go app gives people an electronic voice and enables them to be quite specific in their communication.

One user was able to visit McDonalds, take a picture of a Big Mac and type in the words, “I want a Big Mac please.” Once at the front of the queue, she was encouraged to show this to the person behind the counter and the iPad spoke the sentence for her.

Ipads are also used for visual schedules, daily routines and autism specific games and activities.