Young Girl Helps Father Develop Autism Treatment Software

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Applied behavioral analysis, or ABA, is a method of treating autism spectrum disorders, and other related developmental disorders, that helps develop communication, behavioral, and social skills in children ages zero to 18. This form of therapy helps control autism-related behaviors that inhibit the child’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis.

Autism spectrum disorder affects one in every 68 children, with numbers growing. With no cure for the condition, new treatments and technologies are being developed.

This treatment often takes place with the help of an ABA therapist, and uses techniques that are specially formulated for each child in order to care for them in the most effective way possible. During this year’s TechCrunch Disrupt SF Hackathon, six-year-old Shriya Sreeju presented the Autism Solutions robot, which helps children with autism learn to understand emotions better, as well as help them focus.

The robot is built upon the existing Pepper robot, which has been programmed to perceive emotion and interact with humans organically. By downloading different software, Pepper “evolves with you,” according to SoftBank Robotics, the company that released Pepper. It is able to recognize your likes, dislikes, personality, mood, and habits. In this way, Pepper can be programmed to be a child’s personal ABA therapist.

Sreeju’s father, Sreejumon Purayil, coded the software presented to TechCrunch Disrupt, but she played an integral part in deciding how the robot should work.

She said that first, Pepper would show a flashcard on its screen. “If the kid shows the right card, they get a high five and the robot will say good job!” said Sreeju. “When the kid gets two high fives, Pepper will do a happy dance and show a smiley on screen, to help show emotion.”

Purayil says that he and his daughter have explored Dash and Dot robots, so she has gotten a grasp on the concept of robotics, but is not yet ready to commit to a future in the tech industry, like her father.

Sreejumon Purayil works for Imprivata, a medical technology startup.

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