iPhone Helps Autistic Children Communicate

I have friends that are parents of children with autism, so when I saw this post in Google Reader…

Phone Creates Autism Breakthrough

I immediately read it and want to pass the information along. Lisa Domican, a mother of two children with autism, developed a prototype of an iPhone app that implements the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). With PECS the child is taught that to ask for an item she gives a picture to a communication partner (a parent or therapist) who takes the picture and then gives her the item. The exchange of the picture and item reinforces communication. Most children with autism are non-verbal, so the exchange of pictures becomes their way of communicating.

If you watch the video in the article, you will see the large picture book that her daughter, Grace, uses to communicate using PECS. The picture book contains dozens, if not hundreds, of laminated pictures, secured to pages with velcro. As you might imagine, carrying such a book around is cumbersome, and the book requires constant upkeep to add new pictures and replace worn pictures. An electronic version of that book on a portable device like an iPhone, which is very graphically oriented, is a natural fit, and the mother, Lisa Domican, saw the possibilities the first time she saw an ad for the iPhone.

Mrs Domican found Steven Troughton-Smith, a student that is an iPhone and Mac developer, who worked with Lisa to develop Grace – Picture Exchange for Non-Verbal People. The application can not only be used by children with autism, but by anyone who is non-verbal. The application costs $37.99, which as Lisa explains in the video is significantly less than the materials that she had to buy to build and maintain the picture book for her daughter, Grace. The application runs on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad and is available in the iTunes App stores.