Communication can be difficult for a young child with autism, but the University of Kansas is working to make it easier for both children and adults.
One of the big problems for people with autism is social skills, but it is hard to learn social skills if they are non-verbal.
That is where an app comes in for non-verbal preschoolers. It uses images, so that they can ask for something they want rather than just taking it. The challenge is interaction.
Assistant research professor Kathy Thiemann-Bourque chronicled the study in a video conducted two years ago using a rather simplistic speaking device.
"Half of the kids in our last project started talking, and then half of them didn't," Thiemann-Bourque said.
What they all learned though was how to interact in a socially acceptable manner.
However, the device is limited to four images. That is why her new study at KU involves an iPad app that takes the idea to the next level.
The app is just a tool that requires certain teaching methods. But Thiemann-Bourque said the tool presents possibilities far beyond previous options.
"So it is usually just, 'I want something. You'll give it to me, and we're done.' Whereas with this type of system, the children can be pushing buttons back and forth, so they can have a reciprocal interaction," Thiemann-Bourque said.
The study they did with the device only had six children in it. But the positive results are what got them a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to do the study involving the iPad app.
There will be a lot more children involved in that study, and they are recruiting those children right now.
The study will take place with school children from Lawrence and Kansas City, KS.
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