More Apps For Autism

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Five-year-old Quentin, who is autistic, uses an iPad to help him communicate

My name is Melissa Morganlander and my 5-year-old son, Quentin, has been diagnosed with PDD-NOS, a form of autism. Here are five great apps that have helped him greatly, which I have reviewed on my blog, the iQ Journals.

1. Kid in Story – Social stories are step-by-step picture books that help children with autism understand a social event that might otherwise be confusing, frustrating or simply upsetting. This app allows you to create your own social stories and include your child’s photo and record your own audio. I loved using it to prep my son for our trip to Disney World.

2. Model Me Going Places – This great little app does not get nearly enough praise as it should, in my opinion. It uses video modeling to depict some social situations that children with autism often struggle with. Quentin has watched all the videos, multiple times. The best part? It’s free!

3. VAST Autism 1 – Core – This app uses video modeling for speech. Like so many children with autism, Quentin learns best with visual imagery. This app is packed with extreme close-up videos of a mouth speaking basic words and phrases. It’s a little odd to watch at first, but for children who struggle with expressive language, it could prove to be really helpful.

4. Toca Boca Hair Salon – While this app is not specifically for children with autism, I discovered it helped my son so much with something he struggled with: getting a haircut. Like most apps from Toca Boca, this is about open-ended play. Being able to be in control of an animated client in the salon chair can really put your haircut-fearing child at ease after several rounds.

5. Go Go Games – This app, designed by graduate students at Stanford University, is a set of games specifically designed for kids on the autism spectrum. The games focus specifically on the skill of matching objects, which can be difficult for some people with autism.


Robots For Autism

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Researchers have helped create apps and online platforms to assist children with autism. But one team at Vanderbilt University is introducing something which may have a leg up on capturing kids’ attention: humanoid robots.

Mechanical engineers and autism experts constructed an adaptive system using NAO, a fully-programmable robot. Paired with cameras, sensors and computers, the friendly robot is designed to help children develop basic social learning skills. (Check out the video above for more).

The system structure, called ARIA (Adaptive Robot-Mediated Intervention Architecture), uses the robot to give verbal prompts and gestures to the child to attract their attention. While eye contact is a natural skill for most developing children, those with autism may find it more difficult to maintain with other people and surrounding objects.

The team’s study found that those with an autism spectrum disorder spent significantly more time looking at the humanoid robot than a typically developing child.

Children engage more with NAO compared to its human therapist counterpart because of less intimidation and anxiety

Children engage more with NAO compared to its human therapist counterpart because of less intimidation and anxiety, says Nilanjan Sarkar, a Vanderbilt professor of mechanical engineering.

“Children experience anxiety dealing with people because they think they have to live up to expectations,” Sarkar tells Mashable. “Here, they know the robot doesn’t expect anything and so they’re not intimated by demands, whereas a human therapist may get annoyed or impatient.”

Prompt levels increase with the child’s reaction, and the robot will work with screens around the room to introduce songs and videos to trigger interest. When the participant performs responsively, NAO gives encouragement. If the child doesn’t respond, it provides additional support by combining prompts and gestures.

Socializing robots like Keepon may also help children with autism to communicate and interact, but the ARIA system can serve as a supplement to early therapy.

Oftentimes there are waiting period of weeks or months for treatment, but with further study Sarkar says the robot can serve as an interim learning tool.

“Some children are diagnosed but there’s no immediate therapist available,” he says. “If it proves effective, it can be used at home or along with a therapist so they can monitor multiple children during a session.”

Making Music On The Spectrum? There’s an App for That

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Autistic Students Make Music Using iPad Apps


Please click on this link to view the video:

The first time you listen to Ryan Rodriguez, Denzel Jackson and Jasmine Latham’s music, you might think they sound like any high school band. But the three autistic musicians, along with the rest of their classmates, use a special learning technique and perform on their iPads.

The innovative new music program comes out of P177Q, a school for special needs students in Queens, New York. Teacher Adam Goldberg integrated iPads into his class as a way of getting around the challenging, technical aspects of traditional instruments and allowing students to focus on creating music.

“Right away, these students are learning to work together, they’re learning to share, and cooperate, and to be like a team, because that’s really what’s going on when people play music — it’s team work,” he told Fox News.

Goldberg’s class performed a challenging jazz song for the reporters, followed by free-styling their own compositions. The entire concert was facilitated by various iPad apps.

As more schools incorporate iPads into their curricula, further educational benefits of the device are being discovered. A year after one California school implemented iPads into its algebra curriculum, math scores jumped by 20 percent; 78 percent of students scored proficient or advanced on the California Standards Test.

Are you inspired by the musicians of P177Q? Do you think iPads should be used in schools? Tell us what you think in the comments below or tweet @HuffPostTeen.