Department of Psychology

South West Autism Group

Our South West Autism Group (SWAG) is a collaboration between the departments of Psychology and Computer Science. Together we have been working with pupils from both mainstream and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) schools, to design educational software (Maths Island Tutor) to help with the teaching of Key Stage 3 maths.

Project videos

Animators from Aardman worked with our South West Autism Group in a modelling session for students.

Department of Psychology and Department of Computer Science project with the South West Autism Group.

Current work

Designing educational software for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

To make sure the software we design can teach maths in an exciting and useful way we need to know the following:

  • The likes and dislikes of young people.
  • What motivates young people to learn maths.
  • The maths topics pupils can do easily and those that they may find difficult.

We hope to design software that they would like to interact with and receive feedback from. Although designed for children with ASD, the system can be used by all children learning mathematics.

Research partners

We are very grateful to all of our partner schools that have been involved:

  • Ashgrove School
  • Brislington Enterprise College
  • North Hill House
  • Norton Hill School
  • Ralph Allen School

We are keen to hear from parents or teachers who have comments, feedback or suggestions relating to our project.

Involving children with ASD

It is very important to us that the young people who will eventually be using our software are involved throughout the project, but particularly during the design stage. We are keen to include their ideas and preferences in the software design to ensure the final product meets their needs and is something they want to use.

In order to gather these ideas we have chosen to use a design method called ‘Participatory Design’. This method involves running design sessions with both teachers and pupils at our partner schools. These sessions involve lots of different activities, from looking at the benefits and limitations of existing maths software, to thinking up new ideas to drawing out designs of the computer screen using a range of art materials.

The feedback so far from the teachers and pupils has been positive, and parents have been surprised at what the young people have managed to design.

Knowledge Transfer

In addition to working with schools the children and their families, we are eager to further develop our links with the broader community. We aim to share our findings of what motivates children with and without ASD to educational, home and business environments.

Working with the children to identify their needs and how best to meet them has been inspiring and we aim to ensure that the benefits of this research are as far reaching as possible. We are always seeking partners to further develop the research. If you would like to know more, please email us at the address below.

EPSRC logo
Research funding

This research funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.


SWAG Members

Member Role
Dr Mark Brosnan Principal Investigator
Dr Hilary Johnson Principal Investigator
Dr Emma Ashwin Research Officer
Dr Beate Grawemeyer Research Officer
Miss Laura Benton PhD student


For further information about the projects and the work we have been conducting out at our partner schools,  then please contact us.