Never miss a great news story!
Get instant notifications from Economic Times
AllowNot now


You can switch off notifications anytime using browser settings.

Apps that are giving a voice to autistic kids

TNN|
Making a difference
1/5

Making a difference

Diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) when he was three years old, Sivaa Menon could only say a few basic words like ‘toilet’ by the time he turned 10. This frustrated him so much that he started having meltdowns. Traditional therapies didn’t work. But six months ago, his mother Preetha found Avaz, an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app, which has now given the 11-year-old a voice. He has now learnt to say 10 words.

Such apps support or replace natural speech in children with autism, and other developmental disorders, with the use of images, icons and symbols, stored category-wise in folders, as visual cues. These are early intervention apps and their content can be customised to individual needs.

iStock
What's more
3/5

What's more

Prateek Jain*, 6, used to struggle to convey what he wanted through physical picture cards. “He would end up crying out of frustration,” recalls his mother Disha* who recently turned to Talk With Me, a free app that helps children on the spectrum have conversations.

Hearing how words are pronounced by the app, Prateek is learning to speak new words. For example, when he wants to watch the Baby Shark video, he makes a ‘do-dodo-do…’ sound, like the refrain in the song. Making even simple sounds, or saying just the first syllable of a word is progress, says Disha, who lives in Hyderabad.

iStock
Reluctance
4/5

Reluctance

Despite the obvious benefits of such apps, speech pathologist Namrata Pai says parents are reluctant to use them. “They fear that their child will become dependent on these apps and never learn to speak. That’s a myth,” says Pai, who runs her speech language therapy studio in Bengaluru.

“We need to keep in mind that these resources are like a support system and need to be complemented by other ways of communication and interaction,” says Uma Krishnan, a clinical psychologist who works with children with autism.

iStock
Simpler and better
5/5

Simpler and better

While those who are on the lower end of the ASD spectrum eventually outgrow these apps, those on the higher end, like 13-year-old Vidur, continue using them.

He has used Proloquo2go, Bol and Avaz, but his mother Kalpana says they had the best results with Proloquo2go. “It has a big display and is visually rich. Vidur learnt to ‘say’ many things using it. Earlier, we used to use sign language and picture cards. But they are not enough and can’t be carried everywhere. For example, now I can take my son to a restaurant and he can order what he wants to eat using his app. It can also be customised for better understanding of the language. For example, verbs can be in one colour and nouns in a different one,” says Kalpana who is based in Delhi.

iStock
X
User

Other useful Links


Follow us on


Download et app


Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service