Comixify platform used to help kids with autism

Read-o-Meter 4 minutes

By Bolesław Michalski

Our platform is used by teachers and students on a daily basis. Mainly as a creative solution for homework, posters and sometimes presentations. We are happy to support every educational project. However, this project was different and made us all very proud! This time, the authors of the project together with Polish Scientific Publishers PWN created comic stories that are used to help people with autism.

“Jestem ZA rozmową”, “Im FOR the convesrsation” (ZA translates to for but it is also shortcut of Asperger’s Syndrome). Authors: Joanna Latosińska-Kulasek, Paulina Zawadzka

Below you will find a short interview with author who used our tech to create this amazing books.

Q1: can you tell us more about yourself?

My name is Joanna Latosińska-Kulasek and by profession, I am an oligophrenopedagogue, preschool education teacher, and physiotherapist. I’ve dedicated my life to helping disabled people and I have volunteered since I’ve been 16. I’ve worked with people suffering from cerebral palsy, autism, and other disabilities. I’ve collaborated with various therapy centers. During my senior year of university I started working as a therapist and teacher for children and teens with ASD. Currently, I work in a primary school where I am responsible for the therapy of several children aged 7-14 with Asperger syndrome and autism. I conduct individual and group therapy sessions and I support my pupils during classes. Beyond that, I’m a trainer, I write articles regarding ASD and develop a therapy publications.

Q2: can you tell us more about the project?

I learned about Comixify by accident while getting ready to work one day. I remember being astonished by what I saw in the advertising spot and I instantly felt that this tool might become a fantastic aid in my pupils’ therapy. I’ve watched the spot at least three times, started googling anything I could about the application and instantly mailed to Tomek Trzciński to express my gratitude for him and the whole Comixify team for creating such a wonderful tool I could use in my work. And this is how our collaboration has started, leading to the idea of creating therapeutic comic books that would help children with ASD observe, understand, and exercise various social interactions. Subsequently, we’ve approached PWN publishing house and together we’ve decided to create and publish a set of comic therapy aids. The next stages were: refining and expanding application functionality, defining therapy goals, preparing a table of contents, acquiring actors, organizing photo sessions, and finally generating 6-, 8- and 10-frame comics with varying degrees of interpretation difficulty. The project turned out quite challenging in many ways. Each comic had to possess certain features to be a valid therapy aid for children with ASD. Most essential was proper acting, adequate facial expressions and body language. Our models were not professional actors (mostly friends, family members and students) therefore getting good photos required lots of work in some cases, not to mention generating useful comics out of those photos later. We had to deal with applying appropriate filters, sizes and framing to get understandable results. After many months of hard work, we’ve achieved our goal and the effect is the soon-to-be-published first volume of the book “Akademia pomysłów. Jestem ZA rozmową”. The second volume should be available shortly after.

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Q3: can you tell us more about why comics are good for communication?

People with ASD have significant difficulties with reading and interpreting the thoughts and feelings of others. It’s hard for them to understand complex psychological states and how they affect behavior. Comics use illustration in tandem with speech bubbles to show dialogue but also convey beliefs, emotions, opinions, knowledge and intentions of characters (using thought bubbles, information texts, etc.). This lets the reader analyze and understand situations but also helps describe, define and correct their own observations. It also makes it possible to foresee what other people can think or do and to determine how different reactions could influence their thoughts and feelings.

For decades some well-known researchers (including Wellman, Hollander, McGregor, Whiten, Blackburn, Swettenham, Baron-Cohen, Gomez, Walsh and also Carol Gray who consults children, teenagers and adults with ASD) emphasize the role of comics in the therapy of people with ASD.

In everyday work with my students, I often use comics as a therapeutic tool with different purposes. Sometimes we try to figure out what are the feelings of a given character and we put them into words in a thought bubble. Other times we take the role of creators and generate our own comics. We come up with the story, draft its plot and then we write all dialogues and texts that are needed to deliver the narration. This turns out to be really challenging for children with ASD because often it’s hard for them to understand and express their own emotions, let alone compressing them into a sentence that will fit in a speech bubble. Some stories created by my students are funny and light-hearted, regarding trivial events. Others touch upon deep, crucial feelings and experiences that become a starting point of very valuable and meaningful conversations.

Q4: can you tell us more about your experience with the platform?

Comixify is not just a therapeutic tool I use in work with my students. It’s also great for playing and relaxing. Sometimes we like to fool around and create something out of nothing and most importantly children simply like using it. And I don’t mean just children with ASD. The core curriculum of primary education in Poland includes knowledge about comics and I know several fellow teachers who use Comixify to better explain this topic. It’s just like in the famous quote from Confucius: “Tell me and I will forget, show me and I may remember; involve me and I will understand.” Students have the opportunity to generate their own comics and tell their own stories.

I still have lots of ideas on how to refine, expand and improve Comixify to make it even better and more intuitive for children at primary school age. It already provides invaluable aid for children having difficulties in expressing their thoughts, feelings and emotions. One of my students used Comixify to tell the story of his life – a task he would find extremely daunting using just words. For him, a comic became an excellent tool to perceive his own self. I believe that my adventure with Comixify is just beginning. The application has great potential and I’m sure we’re yet to discover all of its capabilities.

Thank you for all the work you are doing and for this interview.

We are proud to support any educational initiative. Especially if comic book stories are used to help people with autism. We would like to invite all our followers to the live stream on December 2nd. PWN Wydawnictwo Szkolne Nauczyciel wspomagający Thank you for the opportunity to work with you on the project.

Fidn out more about our platfomr possibilites here

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