'Hacking Autism' Announces 7 New Apps in Development for Autistic Individuals

The "Hacking Autism" initiative has announced plans to develop technology applications to benefit autistic individuals.

The “Hacking Autism” initiative—supported by Autism Speaks and other organizations, including the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism—has announced plans to develop technology applications to benefit autistic individuals.

"Hacking Autism" was launched in June 2011, and its goal is to find and accumulate new programs and ideas for technology applications which can be beneficial to autistic individuals.

Seven new software applications were chosen out of over 250 possibilities by the Hacking Autism Advisory Committee, which was composed of leading technology and autism experts. The apps will be developed by volunteer software companies this October at the HP Hackathon, and will be provided to those in the community who wish to utilize them free of charge.

"Not only have we seen innovations in technology rapidly advance to provide solutions to improve daily life for individuals with autism," reported Autism Speaks Vice President for Scientific Affairs Andy Shih, PhD, "we have seen the tremendous effects of these technologies on language, academic skills, social skills and executive functioning in children with autism."

The applications will include:

  • Social Stories/Storyboard: An app which helps families and therapists create social stories to aid a child on the autism spectrum by decreasing his/her anxiety about an unknown situation. This app also has the capability to upload custom pictures or photographs so families can insert them into the storyboards.
  • Calendar /Time Management: A customizable calendar that allows a user to insert his/her own pictures into events and reminders. This app can also help an autistic child or a family member/therapist document what he/she did during the day.
  • Medical/Progress Journal: A journal which can track behaviors, progress, diet, and episodes using an upload so the child's full team (parents, teachers, and therapists) has access.
  • Communication: Non-verbal autistic individuals, as well as those with sensory overload, can communicate using this board of symbols and icons.
  • Safety Skills: A teaching device/reminder for autistic individuals of basic safety skills of daily living, such as crossing the street, riding a bike, water safety, and traffic and fire safety. The lessons are taught through visual modeling and social stories.
  • Bullying: This app will allow autistic individuals to alert their teacher, school, and parents if they are suffering from bullying incident; this app will also offer suggestions and examples on how to deal with bullying through social stories.
  • AAC / Communication / F.A.C.E.: This app revolves around the notion that an autistic individual using this program can learn the motor sequence words. Prior research has determined that a user can still learn a word based on the sequence and how it is taught, regardless of whether he/she visually understands the icons.

"We're excited to see these concepts extended by the greater autism community," said Doug Flutie, co-founder of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism. "'It's not often that a mom or dad, or a teacher who works with a child with autism, gets to tell a software designer what type of tools they need to enhance their loved one's life. We feel that this type of collaboration has the ability to really improve the learning and communication experience for people on the autism spectrum."

"We encourage developers to join us at the Hackathon in October to help develop technology solutions for the challenges people with autism face every day," reported Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer, Personal Systems Group, HP.