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QUEEN’S RESEARCHERS COLLABORATE WITH GUIDE DOGS NI TO PIONEER NEW STUDY FOR CHILDREN WITH SIGHT LOSS

8/03/2017

Dr Matthew Rodger
School of Psychology

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A new study at conducted by Dr Matthew Rodger at the School of Psychology is looking at how the use of sound can help blind or partially sighted children develop better movements. In collaboration with the charity Blind Children UK (Northern Ireland) part of Guide Dogs for the Blind Northern Ireland, the project will investigate the potential of interacting with sounds for improving movement skills in visually-impaired children.

Children with severe visual-impairment/blindness face unique challenges in learning to control their actions due to lack of sight of movement during development. Existing methods for measuring and assessing children’s movement abilities are largely subjective, and techniques to improve movement often rely on an instructor directing the learner’s movements. Using expertise on perception and action, and sensory guides for enhancing movement performance, we will identify movement challenges faced by children with severe visual impairment/blindness, provide more precise assessment of said children’s movements, and test interactive sound as a means of supporting active learning of key habilitation behaviours (e.g. orientation and mobility). In the longer term this project and the collaboration will aim to build a scientifically-grounded understanding of movement development and habilitation in children with severe visual-impairment/blindness. From this, we can guide the design of interactive ‘movement sonification’ technology that directly tailors auditory feedback to the movement needs and skills of the learning user, based on solid scientific understanding of the effectiveness of sound-movement feedback in habilitation.

This type of study is the first of its kind. It uses motion capture, with cameras being used to chart how the children move when carrying out specially designed activities. “We attach these little bobbles, reflective markers to different parts of the body, and the cameras can find where they are in the room accurately and so that’s what gives us the data to understand movement skills,” Dr Matthew Rodger from Queen's University, Belfast explained. “What we are trying to do with this project is to get a clearer picture of exactly what’s going on with movements, what are the challenges that they face, what are the reasons for those and to get an understanding so that we can help these children to get more mobility, more self-reliance and hopefully have a better life as a result.”

 

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