A GROUNDED METHODOLOGY
Finger Talks has chosen to design and develop applications that are thought to give an answer to the problems of concept sharing and understanding concerning the people – with an emphasis on children – affected by Autistic Spectrum Disorder or Intellectual Disability and those who interact with them.
The goal – in collaboration with educators, therapists and parents - is to offer new and effective solutions for visual communication , the most suitable method in this field.
Recent research (Boucher et al., 2008; Rapin & Dunn, 2003) and direct statements by high functioning autistic people (Grandin, Gerland, Williams) show problems of verbal understanding in all the autistic people: this deficit, together with the difficulty in meaning assignment, often create problems of behaviour and make the social and personal integration harder to obtain. The use of visual media proved useful for the improvement of the quality of life of the autistic person (Eric Schopler’s TEACCH program).
Words in Pictures comes as an answer to the need for a more customizable, portable and social accepted mean of visual communication than paper albums or PCs.
Published on march 2013 with the Italian name Immaginario, the app – working on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad – allows to have on-the-go the cards that link the image to the concept to show to the child. These are the “words” of visual communication. It is possible to build messages in a practical and effective way and quickly search for messages. The app is designed bearing in mind the needs of parents and specialists interacting with the autistic person.
Fast access to customizable images, quick building of the visual agenda and of rules and routines, teaching of meanings and management of accidents: the app is designed with an accurate methodology and follows the guidelines about social communication supports.
A COMPREHENSIVE APP
The other applications focus on a direct use by the child (outgoing), working as an “alternative voice”, because they are often designed for all the people with communication problems without distinction.
Both the literature and the knowledge of our working team show that, on the one hand, not all the autistic people have problems with language production (some of them are non-verbal, others speak normally), on the other hand, all have problems to understand the verbal language . Sometimes answers that seem appropriate are the product of mechanical learning, routine answers or words out of context.
Setting up both the communicative dialogue -by the use of pictures – and the right environments to become familiar with iPhone and iPad is a task concerning parents and specialists. Introducing to the use of these devices is usually quick and painless; it is important to avoid the child using the means in full autonomy.
In the next stage, the child starts to consciously interact through Immaginario with the adult. The function SELECT in the agenda, which propose 2 options and by a direct tap on the screen inserts the selected card in the sequence, is a first step in the process of autonomy.