Enhancing educational experience: A digital approach to visual education tool for children with ASD (autism spectrum disorder)

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in International Design Business Management
This thesis delves into the field of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), focusing on enhancing children's learning experience through a co-design approach. ASD presents a group of social communication challenges and sensory-motor actions, influencing individuals early in life due to genetic and other factors. Recognizing the multifaceted impact of ASD on relevant actors, including parents, family members, caretakers, and teachers, this research addresses the urgent need to improve and address the gaps between visual learning, technology, and traditional education methods. As part of preliminary research to gain a better understanding of the field, semi-structured interviews and a literature review was conducted to cover a range of topics related to ASD, such as general knowledge of ASD, its challenges and urgencies, the educational landscape, specific educational strategies, the role of technology in ASD education, the visual learning capabilities of ASD children, and the use of co-design processes specialized for ASD children. Additionally, case studies were reviewed to assess the potential of enhancing the learning experience of ASD children by addressing the gap between their visual learning skills and technology. Combining the insights from this preliminary research, a partnership with Rinnekodin Koulu was established to conduct a co-design session with relevant actors. The goal of this session was to discuss and generate a potential solution that would benefit the children and all relevant actors. Throughout the design research process, relevant actors, such as special education teachers, parents, association members, and therapists, participated and brought their field of knowledge to help gain insights. At the ending of this thesis research, several key findings emerged through thematic analysis, including: effective educational methods for ASD children, commonly used visual and digital learning tools, challenges in the learning experience, promoting equity and inclusion for neurodivergent individuals, and innovative ideas generated during co-design ideation sessions to enhance communication using visual elements and technology interventions. This master's thesis research will provide further learning in designing for the ASD field and will be a future case study learning in the co-design research method. By pushing collaboration, and support, co-design ensures that the diverse insights of relevant actors, including ASD children, are vital to the design process. This approach aligns with user-centered design principles, promoting inclusivity, accessibility, and iterative design. As the thesis continues, it not only seeks to enhance the learning experience for ASD children but also contributes to the broader study regarding inclusive design.
Solsona Caba, Nuria
Thesis advisor
Ganoo, Apurva
co-design research, autism spectrum disorder, inclusivity, education, visual learning, neuro divergent, assistive tools, technology intervention
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