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Being in touch with the core of social interaction: Embodied-design for the nonverbal

  • Author(s): Chen, RSY
  • Ninh, A
  • Yu, B
  • Abrahamson, D
  • et al.

The core of human connection is embodied action, with synchrony, coordinated movement, and affective attunement through the body present from infancy. Yet whereas all students have the capacity for co-presence, a common focus of formal educational institutions on spoken language for interaction makes communication inaccessible to some students, thus impeding their participation in learning. As such, toward providing resources for nonverbal autistic students we must ask: How do we design for inclusive social participation of students with diverse interactional modalities? This paper outlines the development of an embodied-design solution that centers the dynamic body as the nexus of social interaction, thus reclaiming the natural versatility of multimodal interpersonal communication. The Magical Musical Mat is a domain-general platform that allows people to interact through the non-speaking modalities of touch and sound. It removes interactional asymmetry between diverse interlocutors and surfaces the basic human need and capacity to connect with one another, in school and beyond.

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