BACKGROUND: Technologies such as CareLog and Abaris are particularly applicable to the monitoring, diagnosis, and intervention treatments of behavioral and learning disabilities in children, such as autism. Behavior and learning data are pieces of information that can be captured, measured and analyzed over time.
HOW IT WORKS: CareLog is a mobile application for recording behavioral data in informal settings. The child wears a small device, the Intel Personal Server, which holds a database with all of that child's information and acts as a wireless application server for the CareLog application. Members of the caregiver network can record behavioral data about that child through any nearby device outfitted with Bluetooth, Java, and Web browsing capabilities. The application does not need to be installed, and does not rely on a major network, increasing the likelihood that a caregiver interacting with the child will actually be able to record information about that interaction.
Abaris is a fully functioning prototype application to support therapists who perform Discrete Trial Training therapy, a current best practice intervention for autistic children. It uses a digital pen and voice indexing technology that allows for easy indexing of trials into a video session. The format mimics the paper forms currently used by therapists. Captured sessions enable therapists to review those sessions, look for inaccuracies, and determine problem areas to show other therapists for evaluation.
ABOUT AUTISM: Autism is a complex developmental disability that typically appears during the first three years of life. There is no known cure, although therapies and behavioral interventions can remedy specific symptoms. Autism is the result of a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain, resulting in impaired social interaction and communication skills. Both children and adults with autism typically show difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities. For instance, autistic children can't understand such social cues as tone of voice or facial expressions, and usually lack empathy. They may also engage in repetitive behaviors, such as rocking and twirling.
WHAT'S THE CAUSE? Scientists aren't sure what causes autism, but believe it is a combination of genetics and environment. A number of genes associated with autism have already been identified, and studies of people with autism have found irregularities in several regions of the brain. Autistic people may also have abnormal levels of serotonin or other neurotransmitters in the brain. Some researchers believe that autism results form the disruption of normal brain development early in fetal development, caused by defects in the genes that regulate brain growth and how neurons communicate with each other.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.