The figures for children with Autism are staggering. More than half a million children that are autistic now, in the next decade will become adults. This highlights an increasing challenge, which needs to be carefully looked at, to ensure that these children’s needs are to be met in the future. 1 in 68 children are now affected with autism and it is already the most widespread neurological disorder on the planet, which needs more innovations to really help people cope with the disorder.
Speech therapy has been shown to really assist people with Autism. Avaz AAC is a new speech therapy app for autism, which has been developed by Ajit Narayanan and his team at Chennai-based Invention Labs. The team has recently raised $550k in seed funding which Inventus Capital and Mumbai Angels led, to assist Narayanan in solving the problem. The round of funding has some big players involved; Google India MD Rajan Anandan and Sierra Atlantic founder Raju Reddy are among other investors which are participating.
This new funding will be used to expand Avaz AAC into new geographies and also incorporate additional features. Narayanan added that ‘thousands’ of children across U.S., Denmark, Australia, India and Italy are already using Avaz to help them communicate.
This is not the first application of speech development that Narayanan is involved in. He has over 25 patents in his name and he also invented FreeSpeech. This is a new way of expressiing ideas graphically. Narayanan has said ‘FreeSpeech helps create maps of images to represent ideas in a completely language-independent way. Later this year, a FreeSpeech-enabled Avaz app will be available, too..Avaz AAC, addresses one specific dimension of the issue of managing autism, which is to teach a child with autism how to communicate, and help them build literacy,” said Narayanan. “When used under the supervision of a speech therapist, Avaz can help a kid develop strong communication skills, and also gradually learn new words and grammar through the use of pictures,” he added.
Avaz AAC is a picture-based communication tool which helps autistic children use their picture identification skill to then create picture messages, which are spoken by a speech engine. The basic version of the app is available for free on the iOS platform for iPad.
“We are very keen to explore the applications of these technologies in disabilities like dyslexia, which have a much higher incidence than autism, and where again there is a serious need for scientifically validated products…The line that runs through our product ideas is the fundamental belief that helping kids communicate is helping them discover new worlds – and their inability to communicate – either because of disability or because they do not know a specific language – should not limit their ability to express themselves.”
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[Image via technapex]