11.09.2015 change 11.09.2015

An app will facilitate the treatment of children with autism

Photo: Fotolia Photo: Fotolia

Heavy binders with guidelines for treating people with autism may soon become obsolete. They will be replaced with an application that will help patients to perform daily activities, and therapists - to create sequences of tasks to perform.

Until now, one of the methods of treatment of children with autism was the use of "activity plans" that helped patients to perform various activities. Using tips in the form of pictures or written instructions, autistic children cold see the "step by step" procedure for each task, such as washing their hands, getting dressed, building a tower, interacting with another person. "Learning patterns allows people with autism to more easily function in society, and even get a job in the future" - reported Gdańsk University of Technology.

One of the downsides of this solution was the method of preparing such plans. Therapists created them in "paper" form - as binders with sheets containing pictures or inscriptions. "Every educational task, and even play, was assigned a separate binder, and personalized activity plans had to be prepare separately for each child" - according to Gdańsk University of Technology website.

Specialists from Gdańsk managed to simplify the process of creating plans. The application supporting therapy of children with autism has been prepared by Gdańsk University of Technology students led by Dr. Agnieszka Landowska and specialists from the Institute for Child Development in Gdańsk, led by Dr Anna Budzińska and Iwona Ruta-Sominki.

The app has separate sections for the child (for displaying and implementation of the plan), therapist (for creating and modifying plans), and a function that allows to share plans with other therapists. It has a very simple interface: without excess graphics, colours, animations and buttons, which makes it friendly for people with autism.

According to Gdańsk University of Technology, appropriate locks prevent the child from going to another activity until it completes the currently displayed task. The app can be installed on mobile devices with the Android operating system. This makes it possible to use activity plans also outside health centres.

"It is particularly important for people who may need to use this type of guidelines for the rest of their life. A person who moves and performs various daily activities with a bulky binder looks eccentric and draws attention. However, these days using mobile devices such as tablet or laptop is completely natural" - said Dr. Agnieszka Landowska.

The application allows therapists to create and modify sequences of tasks to be performed by the child during the day. "We have managed to create a specialized application, which allows to easily exploit the potential of mobile devices for preparing and executing activity plans. It will also reduce to a minimum the enormous work therapists do every day preparing therapeutic materials for children" - explained Dr. Landowska.

The solution, which will be completely free of charge, is currently being tested by patients of the Institute for Child Development in Gdańsk. "The first tests indicate that children are more willing to engage in performing tasks and perform them faster" - reported Gdańsk University of Technology.

The application will soon be available for download and use in homes, schools and centres. Each user will be able to download the source code of the application and develop its functions independently or adapt it to the therapy specifics.

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