App Helps Autistic Individuals Communicate

Many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) struggle in social interactions. They may have difficulty keeping up with the natural pace of a conversation, or fail to pick up the emotional cues in another’s voice, misunderstanding the tone. Recently, there have been significant advances in technology to help aid in the development of communication skills in an individual with Autism.

Keene State College psychology professor Lawrence Welkowitz has recently developed an app designed to help Autistic individuals visualize speech, helping them understand and mimic the subtle patterns in an everyday conversation. This iPad app shows a visual side of speech, by displaying sound waves.

Welkowitz had teamed up with doctors at Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine to measure the brain activity of high-functioning Autistic adults. The participants in the study use the app while researchers look at brain activity through an MRI scan. Visuals are typically very beneficial in helping and educating those with Autism, as they “tend to be more literal, concrete, and visual” people, according to Josh J. Green, research assistant for Welkowitz.

When Welkowitz was developing his idea, he used a simple audio recording program that shows sound waves as someone is speaking, therefore showing what it looks like when someone talks. This resulted in the development of SpeechMatch, an app specifically for individuals with Autism to see the sound waves of different phrases, spoken with a range of different emotions. These individuals can then try to match their voice to these sound waves, getting a better grasp on the emotions used to create the specific tone.

Welkowitz and his research team have seen signs that Autistic individuals that use the app were able to better understand emotions and therefore make stronger connections. They hope that this will lead to the development of speaking with various emotions, but more research needs to be done to see how to best develop these skills.

The ICare4Autism International Autism Conference will be discussing advances in technology in educating individuals with Autism on July 2nd in NYC. Speakers include Michele McKeone, Founder and CEO of Autism Expressed. Ms. McKeone will be presenting a workshop which demonstrates how her program teaches digital and marketable skills to young adults with Autism, helping them gain opportunities for employment as they transition out of school. To attend this incredible conference, please select tickets here. The conference is only 2 weeks away, and Early Bird Ticket Specials are still available — now is the best time to register!

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