June 18, 2014

From Keene State College
From Keene State College

Keene, New Hampshire: A Keene State College professor, Lawrence Welkowitz, has developed an iPad app used to teach children with autism. He has been researching autism for more than a decade.

In 2005 Welkowitz decided to focus on how the disorder affects speech and communication. Communication and speech are essential to everyone.  However, children with autism don’t have the ability to understand the emotion in your voice. As an example when you speak people can tell by the tone of your voice which emotion you are displaying.  If someone doesn’t know you well they may jump to a wrong conclusion by your voice tone and not talk to you at all.

Children with autism are much like the person who doesn’t know you.  They do not understand the emotion in the tone of your voice. Therefore, they are “locked” in their own world. Just imagine what a confusing world it would be if you were not able to disseminate emotion.

Welkowitz ‘s app provides children with autism a way to understand emotion in a voice.  The app is called SpeedMatch and is in use presently.  A child with autism listens to and sees sound waves of a number of phrases said in different tones.  They are asked to mimic the tone/emotion.  They can see their voice show as sound waves and can see if they have successfully matched their voice tone with the correct emotion.

This is an astounding breakthrough.  It shows that they can learn new speech patterns.  Study continues with the ultimate goal of proving that changes are visible in the amygdala, the part of the brain that shows emotion. To date tests do show there is response in the amygdala.  This iPad app used to teach children with autism is an ongoing research project which will provide further insight in the very near future.

The full article by Ella Nilsen of the Keene Sentinel can be read on the VNews.com website here.


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