Students are motivated to socialize
Screenshots Gallery
Here are some screenshots from the actual software.
  • The Game Characters
    Students can select their favorite characters and the X and Y buttons to scroll through a range of emotions: angry, very sad (crying), sad, happy, excited. When the student speaks the avatar's lips move and records what they say. The characters can move through their virtual world with use of the controller's directional pad.
  • Instructor Settings & Locations
    The instructor selects the setting location for where the students will interact. Does the student or students need help initiating conversation in the cafeteria? The student's can now practice the situation in the virtual cafeteria setting before going to eat their actual lunch.
  • Creating Recordings
    And while the students practice in this virtual simulation the software records it and saves it as a MP4 file. In essence the students create their own social animations that can be shared with family and friends or re-watched for constructive feedback.
SiLAS incorporates video game controllers and headset microphones to control 3D cartoon characters that express emotions.

In a study at Princeton University comparing SiLAS with a paper-and-pencil social skills class, I found that SiLAS resulted in far greater improvement in social skills. This improvement was still present three months after classes ended. Not only did SiLAS parents observe improved social skills in their children, but were also far more satisfied with the skills their children learned. SiLAS leads to greater generalization of the social skills, allows children to practice their skills in a variety of safe contexts, and holds a great deal of promise for social skills instruction to children with autism.

Amy Freyberger
Researcher at Princeton University
SiLAS allows for better informed teacher and administrator decisions through data-driven instruction. Qualitative teacher feedback can be given on each scene a student records as well as a quantitative measure of how well the student performed in a given lesson with focus on a specific social skill. SiLAS automatically builds graphs from this data so that trends can be seen over time.
Humans are social beings, having conversations, making friendships and communities. Social interaction is the key to our happiness. By definition, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder struggle to be socially appropriate and connected. If offered the opportunity to socialize through an avatar, we have found that children with ASD are motivated socially. This insight has been the impetus behind the creation of SiLAS for social skills training and a NSF Small Business Innovation Research Phase I grant to further development. Through our presentation "Autism, Avatars, and Alleviating Social Skills Disorders" we will explore how avatars give special learners the opportunity to step outside themselves to utilize and practice the skills needed to be successful socially.
Supported by the National Science Foundation
SiLAS is a patent pending technology supported by the National Science Foundation.
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