Dr. Lila Kossyvaki talks about her work with Filisia


Dr Lila Kossyvaki, who oversees our research with the University of Birmingham and Hamilton School, gave an interview at the business engagement office of the University of Birmingham. You can read an extract below:

Case Study: Using New Technologies at School for Pupils with Autism and Additional Complex Needs, in collaboration with Filisia Interfaces

Can you summarise the overall project?
We are developing and testing new musical technologies which will support the engagement and social communication of young children with autism and severe learning difficulties. We know from previous studies that children with autism tend to engage well with technology and I am interested in exploring music as a means of communication for children with special needs as there is very little research done on this. We wanted to try out which technologies might enable this in a real-world setting, so we have developed the equipment, and are now taking it into schools to test it out. The project has a lot of challenges but at the same time it is very empowering, because we are collecting real data about the practicalities of using these devices for teachers and teaching assistants, as well as assessing the children’s response to them.

How were you first introduced to Filisia Interfaces?
By chance, the CEO of Filisia and I have a mutual friend who put us in contact with each other when the company moved to the UK from Greece a couple of years ago. I had a chat with him and I was very impressed by his passion and enthusiasm. He had some funding from Innovate UK and he was trying to find somebody to test the equipment out, so we decided to work together.

How will the involvement of Filisia Interfaces benefit the overall research project?
Their contribution was crucial because they are providing the equipment which is worth a few hundred pounds and we wouldn’t be able to do it without that. They also provide technical support, in terms of repairing the hardware and fixing bugs in the software that we come across as we test it. Really we are equal partners as they give us all the technical knowhow in order to make this work, and our role is to advise them on how it should be altered in order to best benefit the children with autism, as most of the team from Filisia are engineers, so they have completely different priorities and expertise.

How will this project inform your teaching and research?
Most of the projects that I have been involved with so far have the same type of methodology in terms of being real-world research, in which we work with parents at home and teachers and teaching assistants at schools. So this project uses a similar methodology, the only difference here is the idea of using music as a means of communication with children with severe learning difficulties, which is a newer research interest of mine. It’s a really important study because we try to offer real world solutions and if we are successful the equipment then these children can stay at school and we will provide the teachers with vital tools to work with. This is a field I am eager to explore further, so this project is just the beginning of my research into communicating through music.

In my teaching, I use a lot of examples from my research and that’s why it’s very important for me to continue doing research. For the course I teach, the students need to collect data from year 1, so it’s very important for me to be able to give them proper training about how we can do as rigorous research as possible in a real world setting. Research has a certain level of structure, and while they are doing smaller scale studies, the rationale behind it should follow the same specific guidelines about how to do good research. I use my examples very often because there are not that many studies within education that have the same level of rigour, and I find it much easier to talk about my research as opposed to presenting someone else’s study. So they are very closely linked.

Thank you Lila, Filisia loves working with you.