Comprehensive Web-based Digital Interactive Scene Program for Language in Autism

Award Information
Department of Health and Human Services
Award Year:
Phase I
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Small Business Information
Hubzone Owned:
Socially and Economically Disadvantaged:
Woman Owned:
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 () -
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Phone: (216) 320-8223
Research Institution
DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a complex, enduring neurobiological condition that affects communication and social interaction. ASD is now an epidemic, affecting 1 in 150 individuals. There is currently no known cur e and the primary treatment is education. Special education costs for a child with ASD in public schools average almost 20,000 per year, nearly three times the expenditure for the typical regular education student. Structured programs in specialty schools often cost 80,000 - 100,000 per year usually borne by the home school district. Typically language need not be explicitly taught to children, but is acquired through exposure to a language-rich environment. However, individuals on the autism spectrum ar e often unable to acquire language in this fashion. A critical and challenging aspect of teaching language to individuals with ASD is the need to convey fundamentals that enable learners to derive meaning from symbols and develop cross recognition promotin g generalization of concepts in order to be able to effectively speak, read, and write and generally communicate. Clinical and research experience indicates that presenting symbols as visual cues in the format of visual scene displays (VSD) is effective in addressing these deficits. An effective instructional process has emerged for teaching these concepts. Current techniques for this instructional process are time consuming and costly requiring instructors to develop a variety of independent instructional media, including videos, static images, and symbols and present these materials to students in a coordinated fashion. Existing software tools do not allow speech language pathologists to easily and quickly create and use multimedia- based interactive lesso ns that adhere to this process. In this Phase I application Monarch Teaching Technologies, Inc. (MTT) is proposing the creation of a unique Web based interactive computer program, Digital Interactive Scene Program for Language in Autism (DISPL-A) that inco rporates multiple essential features into a single interactive computer screen. The features are: 1) screen play area for a dynamic scene cue (video + audio); and/or a static scene cue (photo + audio); 2) a message window to assemble the visual language el ements of the scene; and 3) a grid display of the visual elements from which to choose. These features are currently available only as individual functions on separate Augmentative and Alternative Communication systems (AAC). In Phase I we will design the template (Aim 1), create the interactive visual architecture and content (Aim 2 and 3), and test DISPL-A with clinical and instructor language/speech experts (Aim 4). Within the design, we will create a specific set of content for teaching of selected prep ositions that are one of the most difficult of the speech elements for ASD learners to acquire. In Phase II, we will test the VLLS DISPL-A Program with teachers and students at one private and three public schools and incorporate content for selected verb elements to ready the basic system for market introduction in Phase III. The market opportunity for this special visual language system is potentially 36M annually. PUBLIC HEALTH RELEVANCE: With 250,000 school-age children already diagnosed, and a 782% g rowth rate over the last 12 yrs, effective and practical autism treatments are needed. There is currently no treatment except educational development of communication capabilities. Visually based language tools are considered one of the most effective mean s of developing language comprehension and delivery skills. A web based system easily accessible by all caregivers could provide a valuable and inexpensive means of assisting individuals with ASD.

* information listed above is at the time of submission.

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