AutisMate is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app designed to assist users who have difficulty communicating verbally. This app functions similarly to other available AAC apps, utilizing symbols and pictures to help users articulate thoughts. AutisMate, however, includes a unique functionality that allows the creation and tagging of real-world “Scenes.” Users can take pictures of surrounding environments and tag “hotspots” which, when pressed, open a menu containing common phrases associated with the hotspot. These hotspots can also play video, show a picture, or a present a multitude of other customizable options. Additionally, users can create “visual schedules,” which are comprised of images representing daily tasks and routines, shown in chronological steps. The app is easy to operate for young children, however, customizing and personalizing the app may require some parental help, as use of the app is recommended for children ages 5 and up.
Developing a systematic approach for setting and achieving goals.
To unlock AutisMate's full potential, customizing the app to meet individual users' needs is essential. Creating "Scenes" that directly correlate to environments in which users regularly work, play, or socialize can increase efficiency and make communicating with AutisMate even easier. Users can also use the app to create "visual schedules" which include a customizable checklist of pictures depicting activities, routines or responsibilities. Customizing the app requires users to plan ahead, predicting common situations, language, or responsibilities in which the app will be useful. Creating scenes, schedules, or vocabularies for these situations ensures more rapid, accurate, and efficient communication, making day-to-day living more manageable for less verbal children.
Adapting and adjusting to changing conditions and expectations.
Using AutisMate with an open-ended approach is a great way to explore the app and become accustomed to its varied functionality. It is also important to remain flexible when communicating with family, peers, or teachers, as though the application is robust and customizable, the exact language users are thinking of might not always be immediately available. In these situations, it is necessary for users to be able to express the same thought using alternative language. For example, while talking to friends, users may have a particular opinion to express, but have not prepared an applicable phrase or sentence ahead of time. In this instance, they must explore their options and understand how to achieve the desired result using the tools available. Remaining flexible while operating AutisMate increase speed and depth of communication, and is a great way to foster an open-ended approach to problem solving.
Understanding our own actions, thoughts and feelings.
Children who have trouble communicating verbally may sometimes face difficulty when trying to clearly express their opinions, thoughts, and desires to those around them. AutisMate enables these children to make their thoughts and feelings known while assessing and reflecting on the social interactions they're engaged in, and how these interactions effect communication with others. Improving Self-Awareness particularly relies on two components. Users must understand their own thoughts and feelings, while also gaining an awareness of how each of these function in social situations. By learning how to negotiate their own needs with the needs of others, users can learn to more effectively communicate with others through use of AutisMate, giving children the tools they need to improve Self-Awareness and social thinking.
Recalling and retaining information in our mind while working.
As with any AAC app, AutisMate contains an enormous amount of information. Understanding where and how to locate the necessary tools for communication requires users to familiarize themselves with the app's features and layout. Practicing with AutisMate can help users exercise their Working Memory by presenting large amounts of text, ideas, and tools that encourage users to familiarize and memorize the location of each component in order to increase the efficiency of communications through the app. In addition, features like the visual schedule help users keep track of and remember common tasks and responsibilities. Users may also use the video "hotspot" feature to watch demonstrations on how to properly complete certain tasks, such as brushing teeth, committing these lessons to memory in order to execute them without the assistance of the app in the future.
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