Getting Back the Gift of Gab: NexGen Handheld Computers Allow the Mute to Converse

The latest assistive communication devices are here, and they work a bit like your iPhone

By Larry Greenemeier, Scientific American

Justin Birch lost his ability to speak in 2003 as the result of a brain aneurysm, but these days he is such a facile conversationalist he can ask for his favorite dinner—Ruby Tuesday Minis with fries and a raspberry iced tea—as well as harass his opponents after he defeats them at Texas Hold ‘em.

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‘Portable Hug’ Vest, Designed To Improve Quality of Life For Autistic Patients

Accepting the prize
Therapeutic Systems, a concept business thought up by U of Mass at Amherst doctoral student Brian Mullen, won the $50,000 grand prize at the May 8 Technology Innovation Challenge (TIC).

Therapeutic Systems plans to market a novel “deep-pressure vest,” developed in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, that improves mental healthcare and the quality of life for people with mental illness, especially autism, by providing a “portable hug.” An estimated 3 million to 4 million patients suffer from developmental disorders such as autism.

Read more here.

Research tool can detect autism at 9 months of age

Early Autism Study

The ability to detect autism in children as young as nine months of age is on the horizon, according to researchers at McMaster University.

The Early Autism Study, led by Mel Rutherford, associate professor of psychology in the Faculty of Science, has been using eye tracker technology that measures eye direction while the babies look at faces, eyes, and bouncing balls on a computer screen.

More information here

KASPAR – The Kid-Friendly Robot


KASPAR is a child-sized robot create to identify optimal robot design in order to maximize interaction with children. Similar research is being conducted through the IROMEC Project (Interactive RObotic social MEdiators as Companions) – mentioned here earlier – which is specifically studying the impact of robots on children with autism.

Read about the KASPAR project here or watch this video.

Also learn about the Aurora Project, a precursor to the work on KASPAR which looked at the use of robots to improve interactive skills in children with autism.

New Software Augments Communication for Special Needs Children

SC@UT Software

SC@UT, software for augmenting communication by computer devices (PC’s, laptops, PDA’s, etc.), is for children with special communication and educational needs, such as those who suffer from autism. The functioning of SC@UT is meant to be easy: through a PC or a PDA, parents or tutors can download the specific software from Later, the display is ready to be used as a way of communicating between the child and the society. Through the SC@UT project, the child can express such needs as going to the toilet or hunger, as well as such states as being happy, sad, or tired. SC@UT includes a speaker which transmits the “user’s comments” to the listener.

“This is a project promoted by the Regional Government of Andalusia which attempts to reduce differences between disabled and non-disabled people”, states professor Cañas Delgado. “We have created a configurable parameter tool that allows disabled people to interact with their environment. In this way, their adaptation to a world full of barriers is much easier. In present world, social and labour integration is impossible without communication and access to education.”

Download the software here

In case you need translation for parts of the Sc@ut web site, use the “Translate a web page” feature of Google Language Tools.

Locating Patients and Others Who Wander Using GPS

Project Lifesaver - GPS Technology to Locate Missing People

On Sunday in Anchorage, Alaska, a man with dementia who wandered away from his medical care facility was found using a GPS-based system. The patient was wearing a wristband that incorporated GPS. When the facility realized he was missing, they were able to identify his location using the GPS technology. Project Lifesaver, maker of the device, states in a press release that they have “more than 10,000 people enrolled in its program and has a 100 percent success rate finding Alzheimer’s patients, Autistic children and other people who wander.”

Read the complete story here.

See the company’s press release here.

Watching Videos can Help Children with Autism Learn Social Skills

child watching video

Two new studies at Indiana University demonstrate that videos depicting exemplary behaviors can be effective in helping children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorders develop social skills and daily living skills.

Lead researcher Scott Bellini said these findings will help to identify video modeling as a worthwhile strategy for educators and child development professionals in a field lacking proven methods of treatment.

Read more.

New Medical Tablet PC from Motion Computing Available 4Q

Motion Computing C5

Earlier this month Motion Computing announced the C5, a new Tablet PC designed specifically for the medical community. The device, available in the 4th Quarter of 2007, will include security features (including a biometric fingerprint reader and RFID reader), an integrated camera and built-in dictation capabilities. The C5 will run on either Windows Vista Business or Windows XP Tablet PC Edition.

Read more about the C5 on the Motion Computing site.