Youth, Autism, and Manga as a Visual Language
March 24, 2022
Wall Scholars Anamaria Richardson (Medicine, UBC) and Khanh Dao Duc (Mathematics, UBC), along with Wall Associate Cristina Conati (Computer Science, UBC), are collaborating on a study that will provide some of the first research to ascertain if there is any affinity to reading manga by youth with autism and to appreciate if there are differences in how youth read manga.
Dr. Richardson works with many youth with high-functioning autism in her pediatric practice and has observed an apparent affinity to reading manga and watching anime in these youth. There’s long been a perceived relationship between manga and autism, so much so that some resources for educators even suggest manga-based supports or clubs to create inclusive environments for people with autism. However, until now there’s been no specific research resolving whether the relationships exists.
“This study could lead to a further understanding of the cognitive impact of autism on reading,” says Dr. Richardson. “It could also allow for potential objective measure for diagnostic purposes, and use of manga for communication or interventions.”
The study will use eye tracking (ET) technology and leverage its metrics, to identify if there is any specific affinity to reading manga in high functioning autistics, and if reading manga differs between neurodiverse (high functioning autism) and neurotypical youth. ET is a non-invasive technique that measures the gaze of a participant to capture a number of variables such as duration of fixation, re-fixation (go-backs), saccades, blinking, pupillary response.
The Wall Scholars plan to recruit 20 youth (13-17) with high-functioning autism, and 20 youth without autism, to participate in the study by reading a manga comic displayed on a monitor connected to an eye tracking device for 10-15 minutes. Comparative statistical analysis wil then allow them to assess any differences between the studied groups.
“We’re pleased to be collaborating with Dr. Conati,” says Dr. Dao Duc. “She’s provided access to several Tobii pro eye trackers in her lab, as well as support with the technical aspects of data collection for this study.”
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