Researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology-Gandhinagar (IIT-Gn) are developing low-cost devices for autistic children in India.
This includes affordable headphones that can act as noise-cancelling devices, and low-cost sensors that are part of a larger system being designed to educate, train and rehabilitate these children with complex set of neurodevelopment disorders.
“Children with Autism or Auditory Processing Disorder often have a hard time with noise. Background noise like that of a fan or a toilet flush or a vacuum cleaner can increase the anxiety level in the kid. It is for this reason, that noise reducing headphones or earmuffs come in handy in loud spaces. In the recent past, there have been instances in other countries where headphones have been used to help such children. But these headphones are very expensive and the costs can vary between Rs 4000-25000,” said Nithin V George, assistant professor, Electrical Engineering, IIT-Gn who is working on developing a low-cost device for children who battle disorders characterised by social impairments, communication difficulties and restricted, repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behaviour.
“The device is currently at a design stage. Though it is a little premature to put a price tag, but the cost should be around Rs 1000. These headphones will be such that the child can wear it all day without discomfort,” George told The Indian Express on the sidelines of an event held on autism at the Knowledge Consortium of Gujarat (KCG) campus in Ahmedabad on Saturday.
Currently IIT-Gn is conducting feasibility study along with BM Institute of Mental Health in Ahmedabad to assess the workability of such a device among autistic children. It is also receiving funding from the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India. “There are no studies done in the past on this issue, so we are conducting a feasibility study as well,” the professor added.
Meanwhile, another set of researchers from the same department at IIT-Gn are engaged in developing a special system for autistic children who have difficulty in interpreting what others think or feel, as they do not understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions.
“We are developing a virtual reality-based anxiety sensitive adaptive intelligent system for autistic children. The purpose is to address the gap in their social communication skills,” said Uttama Lahiri, assistant professor of IIT-Gn who is heading a team of researchers who are busy creating real-world-simulations using computer graphics.
“We are trying to deploy technology in such a manner that will make educating, training and rehabilitating autistic children much more simpler. With these virtual simulation models, we will help these children enhance their motor-skills, understand social etiquettes, facing unexpected situations and making friends,” said Lahiri.
This team is also developing low-cost sensors that can is part of this intelligent system for autistic children. “These sensors also have a wider application,” she added.
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