A project to enhance communication in children with developmental disabilities specific to autism.
Communication is one of the most important functions of being human. It starts from the moment of birth. Unfortunately there are many children with disabilities who are denied this vital gift. Fortunately, technology can offer solutions to enable these children to bridge the communication gap. This innovative project's use of technology-based augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices is uncommon in India.
The Sethu Centre for Child Development and Family Guidance in Goa has been working with children with developmental and behavioral concerns for over 11 years, reaching out to more than 6,000 children, including those with autism, hearing deficit, intellectual disability, cerebral palsy and other communication challenges. The Sethu Trust finds practical solutions that improve the developmental progress of these children and support their families.
The multidisciplinary team at Sethu manages children with disabilities. Three professionals, the speech therapist, autism interventionist and occupational therapist, focus on communication and functional adaptation. Avaz is the name of software that runs on smartphones (ubiquitous in families living in Goa), iPads and other tablet devices, that has been created and adapted for the Indian population in order to promote communication in children with special needs. Avaz software loaded onto iPads enables the professionals at Sethu to provide hands on training to children and families, as well as analyze and record the acceptance of technology-based AAC devices by children and families, the developmental progress of these children, and the necessary local adaptations, constraints and possible solutions. Money raised by Goa Sudharop was used to pay for the Avaz software and to support 5 underprivileged families whose children were already using picture communication systems at Sethu and needed this technology but could not afford it. Detailed records of the children it was used with, the family training process, communication levels and other data were maintained.
Part of the funds were used to buy Avaz software for these children so they could download it onto their personal Android tablets/phones. They could then use the program at home to strengthen and generalize their learning.