Yao Du

Informatics ( University of California, Irvine)

Background: Prior to attending UCI, I worked as a bilingual Mandarin-English speech language pathologist across multiple educational and medical settings (e.g., private school, outpatient clinic, hospital, skilled nursing facility, and at home) with children and adults with developmental and/or acquired communication disorders. I completed my M.A. in Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Texas, Austin in 2014, where I worked with Dr. Li Sheng for a master thesis on developing a language screener for bilingual Mandarin-English speaking preschoolers. I received my B.A. in Communication Disorders and Sciences at San Jose State University in 2011.

Current Interests: My research examines best practices in interaction design for children with disabilities, service design for speech language pathologists, and game design for therapy activities through touch-based and voice-based interfaces. Using both quantitative (e.g., experiment, survey) and qualitative (e.g., interviews, content analysis) techniques, my empirical projects aim to transform clinical knowledge to inform technical design and development of educational, assistive, and health technology. My dissertation focuses on the design of “NanaStories,” an Amazon Alexa skill that consists of a series of voice-based activities for children to participate in independently and collaboratively with their parents. Using a design-based research investigation that involves both CwCI and their parents during the process of creating voice-based speech therapy interventions, this study is one of the few early attempts to explore voice technology as a multifaceted intervention that serves as an assistive, educational, and medical tool that promotes healthy behavioral changes and positive learning outcomes.

Dissertation Chair: Dr. Katie Salen Tekinbas

Sample Presentation/Publication: Du, Y., & Soria, A.M. (2018). Designing conversational agents to support home exercises for children who receive speech and language therapy. Poster and oral presentation accepted as the 2nd place of the Student Design Challenge, American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) 2018 Annual Symposium, San Francisco, United States.

One of the biggest challenges for children with communication impairments (CwCI) who receive speech and language intervention is to have access to timely services and to independently participate in consistent and frequent exercises outside of speech therapy contexts, such as at home. Existing voice technology products (e.g., Amazon Echo) have been adopted by approximately 30 million U.S. homes; however, almost all smart speakers on the market are designed with a focus on adults as consumers, instead of using a child-centered caregiver-supported approach that benefits the learning and health outcomes for children. Children who speak multiple languages or have disabilities often encounter difficulties interacting with these systems due to their culturally and linguistically different communication abilities.

Additional Information: https://sites.uci.edu/yaodu/

Presentation Topic: Translating Clinical Knowledge to Mobile and Voice Interaction Design for Children with Communication Impairments

Discussion Topic(s):

(1) Narrowing down a specific population (e.g., diagnosis, age group) that is can potentially bring most critical contribution to the field of CSD as well as human computer interaction. Autism has become a popular catch-22 for both academic communities but in reality, it’s a very diverse population and individual design case studies are very unlikely to bring generalizable recommendations and/or guidelines for design and practice.
(2) Typical research challenges – time, resource, funding: I am currently collaborating with students from software engineering and game design and we have an interdisciplinary research team (as well as advisors/mentors) to support us working together for this project. Though I personally have lots of experiences working with this type of teams, developing a shared common research goal that can fulfill everyone’s interests, motivation, and outcomes can be very challenging. Additionally, Access to the qualified participants: since my home institution doesn’t have a CSD program, I struggle to find appropriate families with children with communication impairments that also own the right speaker (e.g., Amazon Echo).

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