Play your conversation deck against your date’s conversation deck and gain swag!
The Psychiatry Department Autism Research Program has had the privilege of working with the EAE of the University of Utah. Over the course of a few months, the development team has developed a game aimed toward practicing appropriate reciprocal conversational skills, appropriately dubbed “Converse.” The essential premise of the game is to match the key points of conversation in attempt to learn how a conversation can be carried across multiple topics or genres.
This game will be particularly exciting for social skills groups for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. A common education aim of these programs is to teach reciprocal conversation skills in a variety of settings including employment interviews, making new friendships, dating, and other social gatherings. Unfortunately, empirical evidence has demonstrated that structured lessons delivered by “talking heads” are not as effective as other methods that utilize more active participation in the lesson content. Converse offers a unique approach to this quandary by allowing children, adolescents, and adults a medium through which to engage in conversation. Moreover, this takes place in a virtual game setting, a context that is typically very familiar to this population.
The Converse game offers a variety of additional applications to many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays. Above and beyond the benefit of replacing talking heads, the game can be distributed to a large population via a web-based system. The game space can be tailored to any theoretical social experience, and with the digitized conversation reflecting realistic social exchanges the participants can gain an understanding of social interactions in any environment. However, while the game boasts both face and social validity, what is most needed now is an empirical evaluation of Converse and documentation of the translation from computer-based conversation skill development to real world conversational reciprocity.
-Joseph Viskochil, M.Ed. on behalf of the Utah Autism Research Program