‘Digital Puppeteer’: making learning fun for children with autism

Carson City, Nev. — In what can be called a breakthrough in teaching children with autism, live animator expert Gary Jesch came up with something that will catch the attention of both typically developing children as well as children on the spectrum— a ‘digital puppeteer’.

Getting children with autism to listen during their learning sessions is often a tedious task, and oftentimes the process becomes excruciating for both the mentors and the children. But with Jesch’s Invirtua 3D Digital Puppeteer ™, learning will be tedious no more.

The program features animated characters live in 3D, which the children will be physically interacting with in place of their actual therapists or teachers, while they (the teachers and therapists) control the animated characters from another room called the “control room”. The mentors provide the voiceovers for the animated characters as they monitor the child through a web cam setup in what is called the “audience room”, where the child interacts with the animation through a computer.

Invirtua 3D Digital Puppeteer ™ was officially launched at the National Autism Society Conference last month, and already it has gained rave reviews from the first ones to use it. One of them is Edin Webb, who has been practicing speech pathology for the last 17 years. According to Webb:

“This is an incredible tool for working with kids with autism. It has changed the way I work. They are very visual learners and their brains think in animation. Communicating through the avatar removes the authority figure and makes it easier to address certain issues as well as teach and practice very specific skills. It’s a powerful reinforcer and a teaching instrument. It has truly been life-changing in my practice.”

‘Digital Puppeteer’ is currently only available for use by professionals, but Jesch is currently working with Microsoft to bring Invirtua to households through Xbox and Windows computers.

Jesch cautions, however, that the ‘Digital Puppeteer’ is simply a tool and not an alternative to conventional teachings and therapies, and that his invention is no magic elixir. He told:

“It’s not that one session does the miracle. It’s an ongoing process.”

Source: Las Vegas Sun Autism breakthrough: Animation program helps children