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Sunday, July 22, 2018

For children who cannot speak,a communication tool

Children with special needs have always been the focus of this young team

Written by Anuradha Mascarenhas | Pune | Published: March 16, 2012 3:15:26 am

Children with special needs have always been the focus of this young team. Autisto,the last software they developed starting at a hostel room in IIT Bombay,introduced autistic children to an interactive way of learning. And Screamer,the breakthrough software they are readying now,is for children who cannot speak.

“It is a tool that will make communicating ideas easier for these special children. It will hopefully be out for beta testing in April,” says Vishal Singh,who passed out of IIT in 2007 and set up the GetVidya initiative with Bombay and Kanpur IITians. He works with Procter & Gamble.

Vishal and his team initially launched Kiddo,which helped children make informed decisions,and which was developed based on the choices they made and the opportunities they grabbed. After Kiddo was taken up by 40 schools,Autisto followed.

With the problems they face in reading,autistic children need special means of teaching through images and sound. But “most software is in English and with accents that cannot be easily understood by an Indian audience,”says Radhika Bapat,clinical psychologist at the department of behavioural sciences and mental health,Sahyadri Specialty Hospital.

The hospital has one of several child guidance centres across the country that use Autisto. Each centre has nearly 50-70 autistic children and Bapat says Autisto “works far better than the usual text-based teaching tools”.

At the Tamahar centre for children with special needs in Bangalore,Vaishali Pai says that the children love anything to do with computers. “We have a custom-made education plan for each child and Autisto works well with most of the kids.”

Vishal Singh says they have 50,000 registered users and their site recorded 10 lakh hits in January alone. Many current IIT students are part of this venture. “It is not related to our course work,” says one of them,Ashutosh Kumar.

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