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Electronic tutelage

Bindu Shajan Perappadan
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The recently launched TOBY Playpad application provides early intervention therapy for children with autism

E-LEARNING:Providing solutions for child development.
E-LEARNING:Providing solutions for child development.

It started as a joint venture to help a colleague with an autistic child get early intervention therapy at home. The result was the creation of TOBY (Therapy Outcomes by You) Playpad — an intervention application for children with autism. Seeing TOBY’s usefulness, its designers at Australia’s Deakin University decided to go global with this convenient technology.Launched in India recently, TOBY Playpad can monitor a child’s performance on tasks from a complex syllabus and adjusts lesson delivery.

The application aims to empower parents to start early intervention to maximise the child’s development.Deakin University’s Professor of Computer Science and Director of Pattern Recognition and Data Analytics (PRaDA), Svetha Venkatesh told The Hindu, “TOBY offers diverse tasks drawn from a curriculum based on the kid’s progress with pre-requisite tasks. The curriculum has a very dynamic approach; it is able to adapt to the child’s learning and developmental needs by choosing goals and adjusting the difficulty of tasks.”Based on TOBY’s recommendations, one needs to choose the tasks to complete each day and based on the child’s results, TOBY further generates suggestions for the following day’s activities. According to TOBY’s designers, its intensive curriculum covers social skills, language, sensory discrimination and cognitive skills.

For the user, this therapist-designed early intervention curriculum includes 20 minutes of iPad time and similar amount of time off the iPad. “Tasks are weaved into the parent’s daily routines and child’s play interests. Parents can track their child’s progress, as TOBY generates easy-to-read reports through curriculum tree and suggests how much support, or prompting, they need. This also helps parents, therapists and educators to identify the problems which might be occurring and later design strategies to help them,” said Prof. Venkatesh. Stating that TOBY Playpad is an opportunity for parents and educators to provide their children early intervention therapy as soon as autism spectrum disorder has been diagnosed, she noted, “This technology has been carefully designed for parents and educators in collaboration with Autism West Support Inc [a Western Australian Autism support charity] which is cost-effective and easy to use program with children at home.”

“There are 1.36 million autism patients in India at present and many of the families are not even aware of this disability. We see an acute need to provide early intervention therapy to many autistic children and develop their learning ability. For a population where autism as disability generally gets unnoticed, we want to create and build awareness to reach out to as many people as possible. To promote the usage of TOBY Playpad, we have partnered with the National Trust for the Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation & Multiple Disabilities and the Business and Community Foundation, who are already working in this field. The launch of the TOBY Playpad is a part of our efforts to engage locally and provide solutions to community-based issues through cutting-edge research,” Prof. Venkatesh explained. The TOBY Playpad is available through the Apple iTunes Store and is currently targeted at children aged two to six years old.


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