Various latest iPad and other video based applications for treating ASD

Written By: 
By Shivani , Clinical Psychologist, Child Guidance Centre and Department of Behavioural Sciences and Mental Health, Sahyadri Hospitals, Pune

Individuals with autism spectrum disorders seemed locked inside themselves. They may or may not achieve their developmental milestones like those of language, cognition and social skills on time, or at all. They may sometimes be asocial, aloof and distant while other times they may cling on to their care givers or throw a tantrum when left alone. Either way, it is very hard for some of these children to communicate. Multiple times, they are seen pulling their care givers towards an object, making various sounds when they need something and crying or getting angry because they can not express themselves appropriately. Providing for these individuals becomes challenging for the primary caregiver as they get mixed signals which confuse them as to what the individual wants.

As research into autism spectrum disorders commences, newer methods of teaching and helping an individual with autism are found. It is generally seen that individuals with autism learn by repetition, reinforcement, a step by step approach, initiation, imitation and visual cues. Research suggests that numerous children and adults that fall on the spectrum find it easier to visualize. Visual cues could be pictures of real objects, line drawings or even written words. They should be comprehensible by the individual. This could mean taking photographs of pictures of their home, school and community and putting it on a software where it is easily identifiable. Computer technology aids in this.

New, unique, state of the arts software has been made available on smart phones (android, iPad, iPhone, tablets) for individuals with special needs as well as those that fall on the normative curve. On the iPAD, Proloquo2Go (10120 INR*) is for children with speech problems. It modifies the selected text into a voice. It has different levels from beginner to advanced. iCommunicate ( 2530 INR *) is an application for children with visual deficits which allows us to add pictures of our own choice to denote recognizable objects. iConverse ( 506 INR*) is an application found on the iPhone and iTouch; represents an individual's most basic needs like need to eat, sleep and touch. Autism Express conveys emotions that the individual might be feeling. These range from happy, sad, hungry and angry, to burpy, sneezy and much more.

Watch Me Learn (15180 INR *) is a program that helps teach children through video modeling. This helps in enhancing attention, social skills, and daily living skills and amalgamates these with therapy (ABA) and multi sensory products. Apart from applications for children, some software’s like AutismPro and TeachTown supply teachers with teaching strategies like interventions, activities and lessons that are research based. The product price depends on the number of children being taught. They vary from 2024 INR* to 24035 INR*. Speaking in the Indian context, GetVidya is interactive learning software designed for children upto the age of 16 and it is available online for free!

Another computer program is being developed to help individuals on the spectrum with eye contact. A face is displayed on the computer with targets on the eyes encouraging the individual to pay attention. Researchers believe this will help in early intervention. Parents, caregivers and teachers report that the above applications have helped engage their children, increase attention span, build social communication and finally helped them understand their child's needs better. However, not all individuals with disabilities are willing to use this technology. For those, I hope we find other resources that are more beneficial to them, and soon!

* - approximate cost in rupees