AutBuddy: A New Mobile App Inspired by a Sisterly Bond

autbuddy Edgars blog postEashana Subramanian, a 12-year-old girl, has developed a new mobile application after noticing the challenges her autistic sister faces on a day to day basis at school. Eashana had been observing her sister Meghana’s behavior and noticed how important routines were to her. Every morning, Meghana wakes up and goes to brush her teeth, comb her hair, dress up, and get ready for school. Eashana realized that when something changed in the structure of her sister’s routine, she would have a hard time following the new pattern.

Eashana saw how her parents struggled to assign the appropriate tasks to Meghana since they had a difficult time keeping up with what was going on at school. It didn’t take long for Eashana to connect the dots together and realize that there was a communication gap between the teachers and her parents. She decided to take matter into her own hands and create a handy app called AutBuddy in order to bridge the distance. “I look at all these problems and said this had to be solved somehow or made easier for my parents. So I thought of AutBuddy that could have features to fix the problems — not fix but help,” explains Eashana. 

The purpose of AutBuddy is to help children on the autism spectrum carry out their routines at home and school in a stable and organized manner. Eashana developed it along with the help of some of her middle school friends in Derwood, Maryland. One of the main functions of the app is its ability to allow the parents to communicate with the teachers in real time so that they don’t get left behind when it comes to lessons and assigned homework duties. The app is also customizable and is personalized to each children’s needs according to their level on the autism spectrum. 

AutBuddy’s development originated at the Adventure in Science Club which is a Maryland-based nonprofit group that promotes science, technology, engineering, and math education. The team of developers include nine other students as well as an advisor and a special education teacher. The group received $20,000 thanks to the 2016 Verizon App Challenge. The next step for the team has them working with members of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology where the app will move into production. AutBuddy will be ready to launch on June 1st through Google Play and we couldn’t be more excited for its release!

For additional information, please visit:ABC News

By Edgar Catasus

Inspiring Essay by Nonverbal Student Disproves Stereotypes

nonverbal autism essay

Just because 12-year-old Phillip can’t get the words out doesn’t mean that he has nothing to say. The preteen keeps a blog entitled “Faith, Hope, and Love… with Autism” to record his thoughts for an audience willing to listen. Continue reading

ABCs of the IEP

IEP

Individualized Educations Program (IEP) meetings are an important part of giving your child the best education to help them succeed. IEPs are personalized for each child and their families so that the school and staff can work at the child’s … Continue reading

Study Finds Inclusive Classrooms Boost Language Skills

Inclusive Classrooms Can Boost Language Up to 40%

A new study published in Psychologilcal Science finds that young children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD), particularly those with speech delays, improve their language development more rapidly in inclusive educational and social environments. The study found that preschoolers with disabilities … Continue reading

Toys for Children with Autism

Toys can have a very positive impact on the development of children with autism spectrum syndrome. Choosing the right toys that will entertain your child and at the same time encourage development could be challenging. Toys are a big part of the development program at the Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices.

Keep in mind that ability of the child is more important than age recommendation when you are choosing toys for kids with autism.  Simple toys like puzzles and mazes will help your child to focus on completing tasks and will bring a sense of achievement.  Any type of painting or drawing will be great because working with tools will help improve your child’s motor skills.  Board games could be amazing entertainment for the whole family and it will improve the social skills of a child.

Besides regular toys, you can choose from a variety of electronic resources, apps and DVDs that are designed for children with special needs. Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices School use iPad apps such as Buddy Bear app and PlayHome.

Model Me Kids, www.modelmekids.com, specializes in creating toys that focus on the development of social skills, by teaching children how to express emotions and the proper usage of body language. Another company, TeaChildMath, www.teachildmath.comwill help with improving basic knowledge of math and will enhance motor and writing skills of the child.

Generally any toys would be extremely helpful with connection, improvement of social skills and overall development.

For original story, please click here.

New Arizona School for Children with Autism

August 1, 2013 was the first day of class for students at Intermountain Academy in Tucson, Arizona. The school, utilizing the space of what used to be Howenstine High School, provides one-on-one education services to students with autism from pre-k to 5th grade. This school is supplemental to existing programs, giving these students the opportunity for a smaller class size, as typical class sizes can be overwhelming and distracting for these students.

One student, Kymonni Daniels, is already benefiting from the services she is receiving, and her mother, Phoebe, could not be happier. Phoebe had done extensive research on schooling for her autistic daughter, and Intermountain Academy was the best choice. Her daughter is a lot happier than normal coming home from school and has already learned to write the letter “K”. Cyndee Win, Education Program Specialist at Intermountain Academy, explains that by providing each student with a one-on-one, the child has the opportunity to take a break if necessary and each activity can be tailored to his or her specific needs. Win also explains that “social interaction is really important for our students…getting them to play together in an experience like that after the fourth day of school, fifth day of school? Amazing!” [i]

Providing children with autism and other developmental disabilities the specific education they need is crucial, as many have sensory issues and the like. Shema Kolainu- Hear Our Voices offers students numerous therapy services, including speech therapy, ABA therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, etc. The teachers and staff are trained to assess each situation with care, to ensure the success of each student.


[i] “News 4 Tucson” New school for students with autism. 13 Aug 2013. Web. <http://www.kvoa.com/news/new-school-for-students-with-autism/#!prettyPhoto/0/>

New Online Course For Parents of Children With Autism Designed by Medical & Educational Experts

 

 

 

 

 

The University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center has launched an online course designed to help parents of children with autism better understand behavioral intervention, advocate for their child’s needs in school programs, and navigate the legal rights of disabled persons. The course is divided into ten-modules, allowing parents to set the pace, and is intended for use as early as diagnosis. The lessons follow six families of children with autism spectrum disorder through common scenarios to guide parents in the implementation of Behavioral Intervention strategies. The program manager, Maura Buckley, a mother of two young teenagers with autism, used her experience navigating the various systems of care and education to form this parental guide. Buckley notes having felt uninvolved and uninformed about her children’s daily lives while in school and therapy. She asserts the benefits of the new program saying, “Being able to interact with the professionals who are helping my child, and being able to advocate for what they need is so important.”[i] Seminars can be difficult to coordinate attending, especially for a parent of a child with autism, so an online program allows accessibility to up-to-date information on intervention strategies and educational approaches, bridging the gap between specialists and parents. Additionally, equipping parents with the knowledge of behavioral intervention will allow parents to reinforce their children’s progress from school and therapy programs, providing the most comprehensive care for individuals on the autism spectrum. Parents who take the course will know what and how to inform specialists of behavior at home as well as how to best respond in particular circumstances. The course is available for monthly, quarterly, and annual subscription atudiscovering.org. The experts responsible for the course are in the process of creating an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) course for paraprofessionals, to be released this summer.



[i] Meindersma, Sandy. “Medical School Launches Online Course for Parents of Children with Autism.” Worcester Telegram & Gazette. N.p., 26 May 2013. Web. 28 May 2013. <http://www.telegram.com/article/20130526/NEWS/305269985/1237>.

Autistic Teen Garners Nobel Prize Consideration for Work In Quantum Physics

An autistic teenager has been “tipped” for a Nobel Prize. Jacob Barnett is earning his masters in Quantum Physics at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), with research that has garnered him consideration for a Nobel Prize. Oh, did I mention that Jacob is only 14? Jacob was diagnosed with autism at the age of two when he exhibited regressive behavior, losing communicative and social skills. Doctors believed Jacob would need special education and accommodations for life and would likely never be able to read. Despite the severe diagnoses, Jacob’s parents paid special attention to Jacob’s behavior, noticing that he was particularly happy when doing something meticulous, like counting, and disinterested with typical toddler activities. His mother, Kristine Barnett explained, in a 60 minutes feature on Jacob, that her and her husband engaged Jacob in the activities he liked after school and saw unbelievable progress. By kindergarten, Jacob was still behind his peers communicatively and socially, but, according to his father, he would return home and ask when he would get “to learn algebra.” By the third grade, Jacob, accompanied by Kristine, was auditing college calculus. The mother-son-duo laugh about the experience explaining how other students were surprised when Jacob would participate, believing that Kristine was enrolled and unable to find a babysitter. At the end of the course, Jacob requested to take the exam, and upon earning an ‘A’ was offered a full scholarship to IUPUI. In preparation for starting college before the age of 10, Jacob taught himself all of high school math in two weeks. Today, at 14-years-old, Jacob is earning his masters and conducting research that has put him in the running for one of the world’s most coveted prizes. He is thought to have an IQ equal to or greater than that of Albert Einstein.

Throughout all of this success and the attention, Jacob attributes his academic trajectory to the autistic experience, discrediting the ideas of “genius” and “savant.” In his presentation for TEDxTeen, Jacob encourages divergent thinking, telling the audience to “stop learning and start thinking.” He believes his interest and aptitude in math and science was born out of boredom as he was forced to “stop learning” when placed into a public special education program. While he was treated as disabled, he focused on “shapes and shadows” and considered large-scale theories of physics, soon proving himself differently-abled. His parents observed this difference and fostered his specific strengths. Today, Jacob’s autism diagnosis is barely visible, though, he asserts, he still has difficulty tying his shoes.

In order to succeed you have to look at everything with your own unique perspective. Okay, what does that mean? That means that when you think you must think in your own creative way, not accepting everything out there.

Jacob Barnett, TEDxTeen

At Shema Kolainu – Hear Our Voices, our care is specialized. We are dedicated to identifying and fostering the strengths of our children. We facilitate and encourage open communication between all caregivers (parents, teachers, therapists, and physicians) so that individuals’ strengths do not slip through the cracks. Jacob Barnett’s advice is valuable for society’s larger understanding of learning and ability, as well as the subsequent implementation of inclusion.

Humanoid Robot Designed for Autistic Children, Success Already Noticeable!

Aldebaran Robotics has announced their Autism Solution for Kids initiative: ASK NAO. Aldebaran is among world leaders in humanoid robotics design and believes their newest addition to the robot family, NAO, is the “perfect bridge between human and technological worlds” for autistic children, whom often find communication easier with regimented structure that computer-based programs provide. At 2-feet tall, NAO is child-sized, and surprisingly full of personality. “He” can make a good companion, developing social skills and furthering education through games.  Aldebaran intends for NAO to be used as a teaching assistant in special needs classrooms. The robot is able to lead and participate in a variety of educational games aimed at developing verbal skills, non-verbal communication, emotional intelligence, and elementary academic skills. ASK NAO has been tested in three schools, one in England and two in the United States. The Moody Preschool in Massachusetts requested to beta test the program and reported that NAO was useful for inclusion classrooms, providing a social mediator that both typically developing children and those on the autism spectrum found engaging and exciting. The staff observed positive changes in attention span among the autistic kids in just a few weeks. One teacher asserted, “Some students who barely react to people had a great reaction to the robot.” Head teacher of the special needs program at Topcliffe Primary in Birmingham, England explained an aspect of NAO’s success with his students, saying “The robots have no emotion, so autistic children find them less threatening than their teachers and easier to engage with. Children who first come into school unable to make eye contact with humans start to communicate through the robots.” Topcliffe Primary has had two robots for over a year—Ben & Max. You can see a video of Topcliffe’s success with ASK NAO in this news feature.

Share your opinion on humanoid robots for autistic children here!

 

Gee, Sue. “NAO Works With Autistic Children.” NAO Works With Autistic Children. N.p., 5 May 2013. Web. 07 May 2013. <http://www.i-programmer.info/news/169-robotics/5837-nao-works-with-autistic-children.html>.

New Research Suggests Girls With ASD Need Different Treatment Approach Than Boys

Interesting new research for parents of daughters presented today at the International Meeting for Autism Research. The gender distribution of autism spectrum disorder has raised flags for researchers for years. Males are 4 to 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD than females. The current diagnostic criteria for ASD were designed primarily from symptoms in boys, so if symptoms manifest differently in girls, then some girls may be slipping through the diagnostic cracks. Because more boys are diagnosed with ASD than girls, research populations often have imbalanced gender distributions—leaving us knowing less about autism for girls. Other studies pertaining to neuropsychiatries have proved that symptoms can be different for girls, and different symptoms require different treatment. This week, at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Spain, two new studies are presenting results on the association between autism and gender.

One study,[i] conducted by Yale University researchers, found that the extra X chromosome in girls is protecting from autism, so the diagnosed cases of autism in girls is often associated with higher-risk mutation that “overwhelmed” their “protective mechanism.”[ii] The second study[iii] tested the success of the computer-based intervention Let’s Face It! (LFI!)  in improving identity recognition with changes in expression, viewpoint, features, face process strategies, and attention or ability to ascertain information from eyes. The researchers found that while the intervention had overwhelming success for boys, it actually posed adverse affects for girls in the study. The chief of the division of autism and related disorders at Emory University elaborated on the findings, saying “In boys, the more they looked at the eyes, the less socially disabled they are. In girls, the more they looked at the eyes, the more disabled they are… we have to take gender as a mediating factor.”i

Both studies confirm speculation that ASD manifests diversely between genders. This information is a game changer for education, therapy, and other treatment practices for autism. The findings will propel research to design strategies better suited for the needs of girls with autism. At Shema Kolainu, we recognize that all of our children are on a spectrum and are sensitive to the nuances of the disorder. We will take this information to heart when designing the individualized plans for our kids and await eagerly new evidence of successful treatment strategies.

Parents, please share your feelings regarding these findings with us here or personally. Do you feel like your daughter’s symptoms differ from your idea of the typical autistic? Do you feel like treatment that improves others, upsets your daughter?


[i] Whole-Exome and CNV Data for ASD Sex Bias. S. J. Sanders* and M. W. State, Yale University School of Medicine

[ii] “Girls with Autism May Need Different Treatment | Health24.” Health24. N.p., 2 May 2013. Web. 03 May 2013. <http://www.health24.com/Parenting/Child/News/Girls-with-autism-may-need-different-treatment-20130502>.

[iii] Effects of a Targeted Face-Processing Intervention On Visual Attention to Naturalistic Social Scenes. P. Lewis*1, J. M. Moriuchi1, C. Klaiman1, J. Wolf2, L. Herlihy3, W. Jones1, A. Klin1, J. W. Tanaka4 and R. T. Schultz5, (1)Marcus Autism Center, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta & Emory University School of Medicine, (2)Yale Child Study Center, (3)University of Connecticut, (4)University of Victoria, (5)Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia