Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a neurodevelopmental communication disorder resulting in functional language and behavioral delays affecting over 3.5 million Americans. These delays vary with the severity of symptoms that present in ASD but often result in limited speech and increased communication challenges. Current clinical techniques have shown varying degrees of efficacy in improving functional language proficiency. Most techniques follow a drill-like procedure, where the child is made to repeat various sounds and phrases until they are retained. However, such a process requires potentially over twenty therapy sessions to show improvement which may then only be focused on one aspect of speech
iTherapy is currently developing a personalized educational experience for students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by creating a virtual reality (VR) based VAST program to stimulate engagement and speech production practice. Video-assisted speech technology (VAST) is a method of using a video of a close-up model of the mouth and speaking simultaneously with it. Rather than present the individual with a static photograph of the initial phoneme, the entire sequence of oral movements can be presented sequentially via video-recorded segments of the orofacial area producing connected speech, combining best practices, video modeling, and literacy with auditory cues to provide unprecedented support the development of vocabulary, word combinations and communication.
The VR will offer several benefits as a therapy technique: it will help overcome sensory difficulties, more effectively generalizing information, employing visual learning, and providing individualized treatment. As a user moves through the stages of the program, they will be immersed in a proactive environment where they will engross themselves with continuous content
Broader Impact / Application
The incorporation of iTherapy’s VAST system into special education classrooms will help children with ASD to enhance their functional and social communicative abilities. The VR system will teach them various motor and word production skills which will grow their vocabulary, reading skills, understanding of speech, and functional language usage as a whole. By building upon standard therapy techniques, this product will provide those with ASD an opportunity to enhance their quality of life by increasing their speech abilities which will enable them to build social networks and handle the events of daily life.
With the help of Inspiralia, iTherapy was awarded a total of $224,789 through the National Institutes of Health to continue developing this innovative system and ultimately enhance education for all those affected by ASD.