Think about the process of brushing your teeth. Pick up the toothbrush, put on the toothpaste, and brush. 3 easy steps, right? For a lot of people, it is an effortless process.
However, one percent of the world population lives with autism. For these people, it’s important for simple processes to be broken down into more steps.
Until now, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) has been the program used to help people with autism develop both academic and life skills. ABA uses a system where trained nurses and aids log their exercise activities and progress seen within their student via paper. These progress pages are added into binders full of past progress pages. Upon the autistic student receiving a new nurse, that nurse then has to go back through countless pages of recorded process with each activity to determine where to then pick the lesson up.
This process has flaws in it, though. Being that each individual aid is determining the rate in which the lessons are taught and how fast the student is picking up on the skills, human error can factor in. Results are not always accurate and reliable as they had been recorded.
Temple Professor Dr. John Nosek, along with his team “Guided Technologies,” have developed a program to help combat these issues. The program is titled GAINS, or Guidance Assessment & Information Systems.
The program develops a learning program for each individual autistic student, depending on his/her current state of abilities. The program continues to evolve a plan as the exercises are executed and the program is taking in the results of each exercise.
Speaking with passion, Dr. Nosek told Temple Update, “We incorporated into a system and created an expert agent. So basically it’s monitoring where the student is and where the instructor is. And based on where the instructor and student is and how the student is performing, we can actually coach people on what to do and what to say, how to reinforce and what help to give.”
So how does GAINS physically work?
The instructor puts on a specially designed headset that sits directly above the instructor’s ears. The headset connects via Bluetooth to a smart-app. Through sending different vibrations, the instructor hears the instructions being given by the app on how to perform each step of each individual exercise. With a simple tap after performing each exercise on either the red or the green buttons, the app updates what step is next in the exercise.
Why not just read from a book that can provide the same instructions?
By having a hands-off approach, this app allows for the instructor and student to keep a strong connection throughout their entire session. By receiving directions via headset, an instructor is able to maintain eye contact with the student the entire time, creating a trustful bond between the two.
How can it help autism education expand?
Not only can instructors use this technology, but now family members can use it as well! With it’s easy-to-use interface and low prices, families can now directly help in the aid of developmental progress within their own homes. This can even help family members understand the processes broken down more than they typically would. To answer the toothbrush question, Dr. Nosek answered that brushing one’s teeth takes 21 steps total.