CHENNAI: With a slew of apps ready to help-out kids with conditions like Autism and Down Syndrome, creating tools merely as temporary options has been struck down as old-school. Intervention is the theme of the day, and the stress is on updating devices and environment for inclusive growth of kids with learning-disabilities. With communication and learning being two most critically affected areas, there is a worldwide need for simple and assistive technology that can help in both communication and teaching which will go beyond the confines of these technological implements.
A study by Centre for Disease Control, the US, says one in 68 children could have autism, one of the most challenging disorders.
The disease inhibits central-cognition, localising the child’s focus onto one particular thought, instead of their overall surroundings. Unresponsiveness, lack of focus and obsessive speech or thought patterns, are some telling symptoms.
In May this year, a three-day global meet focused on conditions like autism, cerebral palsy and other neurological disorders, giving impetus for more disorder-related technology. It explored new methods in handling children and making people aware of the available tech that could offer some road map for treatment
‘I recently got an app on iPad called ‘Proloquo2go’ for my younger son who has been diagnosed with autism. He is going to be five this year, but he has difficulty speaking and responding to things, even to his name. It’s both upsetting and frustrating and as parents we tend to feel helpless. I got this app after reading about it on a forum, it has a good variety of options and appeals to him since he’s visually-inclined,” says Veena Mahadeva an NRI, underscoring the benefits for a middle-class family, who could teach the kids from home instead of sending them to highly-specialised schools.
There is even the newly launched ‘Meri Vaani’, a learning-based app for autism in vernacular Indian languages.
Avaz app and its variants, for instance, aids in AAC (Assisted Augmented Communication) by engaging children visually allowing them to depict and learn activities on a screen, as language is usually an impediment. Ajit Narayanan, the brain behind the successful Avaz series of apps, says that though parents have the right intentions, there is a lack of awareness on what’s available.
“There are 1,80,000 speech therapists in USA, but only 1,500 in India. And awareness on these 1,500 is also low,” he says.
The app throws open its colourful icons and engaging illustrations to not only children with autism, but also other learning-disabilities like cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, Angel Syndrome and mental retardation signalling an era of tech-driven treatment for children.