British Columbia

Scrapbook app helps those with autism learn faces, emotions

People with autism often struggle to recognize faces and emotions. A University of Victoria app wants to help them improve those skills.

“Being able to identify a person by their name is really important."

Tim Tanaka (first row, second from left) poses with the Center for Autism Research Technology and Education team that developed the app. (

A new app, designed at the University of Victoria, is hoping to help kids with autism who have a tough time recognizing faces and reading facial expressions.

The Scrapbook app allows kids to take pictures of loved ones. The kids can label them and make a game to remember them.

Jim Tanaka, a psychology professor at UVic, is one of the app's designers.

"We wanted to figure out a way that we could develop an app that would help them recognize the people in their everyday lives their family, their schoolmates," he told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"It was really inspired by just trying to figure out ways of developing a game that's going to be fun for the kids but also apply to their real world."

Tanaka says people in the autism spectrum often shy away from new people, and when they do meet them, they tend to avoid looking at their eyes and instead focus on the mouth. He says this app will give autistic people a chance to look at familiar faces in a non-threatening way.

"It's a way to connect with people," Tanaka said. "Being able to identify a person by their name is really important. It's a way to sort of build social relationships."

Scrapbook is available free on the iTunes store, and requires an iPad 2.

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: UVic app helps those on autism spectrum recognize faces


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