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Developing an audio drama model to help children with autism spectrum disorder

CMU’s Center for Innovation, Collaboration and Engagement supports interdisciplinary research

​Using Aesop's Fables as inspiration, Will Anderson — a Central Michigan University broadcast and cinematic arts faculty member — is developing a model for using audio dramas to help children with autism spectrum disorder.

His interdisciplinary project was advanced by a small grant from CMU's recently developed Center for Innovation, Collaboration and Engagement, which enabled him to investigate what millennials seek in audio dramas.

​"This idea of using audio drama for ASD therapy and education is a new avenue. It hasn't been done," Anderson said. "What I love about the research work that I'm doing with audio dramas and ASD is it's doing something good for society. It's all due to the environment that the ICE Center has created – a spirit of collaboration."

Anderson plans to collaborate with Jill Taft-Kaufman, a communication and dramatic arts faculty member,  Al Wildey, an art and design faculty member, and Mark Cox, a School of Music faculty member, as well as others across the CMU community.

Center encourages interdisciplinary research

While ICE is housed within CMU's College of Communication and Fine Arts, the goal is to involve faculty, staff, students and others from across the CMU community to improve lives through complex research, said Johnny Sparks, the center's director.

"We're starting a place that allows our community to put its stamp on the world through the collective tools that we have at our disposal – intellectual and professional," Sparks, an associate professor of advertising, said. "Imagine a place where ideas come together around issues and challenges that are important to society."

ICE will have various resources at its disposal to help researchers, like Anderson, including the tools to conduct qualitative research, content analyses, quantitative research and even virtual reality headsets.

Sparks said interdisciplinary collaboration creates a tremendous opportunity for CMU.

"It's about getting information about complex topics in a language that people understand and through channels that they are engaged with so that they learn and grow and live better lives," Sparks said. "This center has the opportunity to develop research across departments and colleges at CMU."

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