New edutainment app, Look at Me, builds social skills in children with autism and gives families an opportunity to connect.

As the mother of a daughter on the autism spectrum, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve said look at me in the last 10 years. It is often impossible to tell if my daughter hears what I say—if she’s really listening or has withdrawn to some secret mental space.

I love my daughter—and appreciate her gifts of truth telling and self-preservation. But parenting her is often lonely.

She tells me she loves me while staring at a spot on the coffee table, or at an overhead light, or out a window. She hides inside her hooded sweatshirt and speaks through her zipper.

I rarely get to see her beautiful, amber-colored eyes.

Samsung Canada Combines Gaming and Education to Build Social Skills in Kids with Autism

I was excited to hear about a new app from Samsung called Look at Me, which aims to improve an individual’s ability to make eye contact and convey basic emotions. The Look at Me app presents children with autism with a series of themed missions; each requires interaction between parents and children to encourage positive connections.

Look at Me is designed to be stimulating and fun for children whose attention is characteristically difficult to maintain. A multidisciplinary team of clinical psychologists, cognitive psychologists, and psychiatrists from Seoul National University and Yonsei University, South Korea joined app developers to design the app’s curriculum.

Children aged 5 and over, with a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder are encouraged to use the Look at Me app for 15-20 minutes each day. The app also gives feedback to parents on their children’s daily performance progress through a systematic parental dashboard.

                                                                                          Source: Eric Peacock (Flickr: CC)

Pilot with Autism Speaks Canada

Samsung Canada is donating 200 tablets in partnership with Autism Speaks Canada as part of a pilot initiative called The Look at Me Project. The Samsung Galaxy Tab S will be preloaded with the Look at Me app and given to 200 families with children with autism spectrum disorder across Canada.  

The Look at Me project is designed to create a shared community to connect families with similar experiences. This project hopes to facilitate meaningful connections between parents or caregivers and their children as well as foster connections between the 200 families selected.

Applications for participation in the Look at Me Project will be accepted until January 19, 2015, and winners will be notified by February 20, 2015.


"In spending time with some of the first Look at Me Project families,” said Mark Childs, Chief Marketing Officer of Samsung Canada, “we experienced how excited and engaged the children are with the tablet, while fully enjoying and succeeding with the Look at Me app exercises."

Among the first families to join the Look at Me project in Canada, Cheryl Ertel said,

“With The Look at Me Project from Samsung and Autism Speaks Canada, we're looking forward to more meaningful connections, but also the opportunity to engage with other families living with autism across the country to share our experiences.”

The Social Side of Autism Spectrum Disorder

The Centers for Disease Control reports the prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in the United States at 1 in 68 children. ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues such as sleep and gastrointestinal disturbances.

The most common feature of ASD is impairment in social interaction. Those on the severe side of the spectrum may be unresponsive to social stimuli as infants. In others, symptoms of ASD become apparent during the preschool or early elementary school years.

Individuals with ASD have difficulty interpreting social cues, understanding non-verbal communication (i.e., body language and facial expression), and have difficulty forming and maintaining friendships.

Jenn Lonzer has a B.A. in English from Cleveland State University and an M.A. in Health Communication from Johns Hopkins University. Passionate about access to care and social justice issues, Jenn writes on global digital health developments, research, and trends. Follow Jenn on Twitter @jnnprater3.