Len Klie

O Brother, Where Art Thou?

New Jersey teen Jonathan Izak this week released a communication and therapy tool for the iPad that uses speech and GPS technologies to provide context for the places where his autistic younger brother, Oriel, might find himself.

Called AutisMate, the app that allows Oriel and other users to add their own videos, pictures, and voice recordings to create visual scenes that promote functional and social skills, as well as communication. This can all be set up from within the app, which offers more than 12,000 symbols, custom voice recordings, and synthesized voices. It can even be set to use multiple phrases to communicate the same idea.

The app was created with Jonathan’s younger brother in mind. Like many other children with autism, 10-year-old Oriel struggles with verbal communication. “The design of the communication apps that were available required too much navigation for those with the language and generalization issues often associated with autism,” said Jonathan, founder of SpecialNeedsWare, in a statement.

AutisMate uses GPS to present users with familiar scenes that are relevant to their current locations and allows users to interact with those scenes to communicate. It also boasts an intuitive user interface and features like content sharing via email, in-app customer support, easily resizable buttons, and the ability to switch between users.

For Oriel, pressing on the star on the kitchen sink brings up a video that demonstrates hand washing and plays a recording that says “I wash my hands in the sink.” Clicking on the fridge brings up pictures of Oriel’s favorite foods.

“I found that parents and therapists felt the communication apps currently on the market were very limiting, over-priced, and not user-friendly,” Jonathan continued.

The app is currently available on the iPad App Store. It’s refreshing to see such an app, especially one that uses full capability of speech, for such a noble purpose. Hopefully it will make a huge difference for children like Oriel.