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Award winning project gives gift of learning

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Curtin Institute of Multi Sensor Processing & Content Analysis researchers Professor Svetha Venkatesh, Dr Dinh Phung and Dr Stewart Greenhill were awarded first prize for their Toby Playpad software.

The software is designed as an application for the iPad and offers an interactive ‘table-top’ learning tool to advance learning outcomes for children, as well as advice and help for parents.

Uniquely, the software can also monitor and record the rate of a child’s learning progression.

“Every response they make is recorded through the system and the software gives feedback to the parents,” Dr Greenhills says.

To develop the software, Dr Greenhill says the research team worked with specialist therapists and over a two-year period to put together a program that takes the child from very early stages to more advanced stages.

“So the system develops the therapy goals in a personalised and ordered way, and monitors the child so they get something appropriate for the level. If a child gets stuck at a particular stage, the program will generate more activities to get them through that stage,” he says.

West Australia carer Anita Howard says this type of personalised and engaging technology is an invaluable asset in developing more advanced approaches to teaching those with autism spectrum disorder.

The software works by starting with basic activities such as sensory matching to establish skills for visual and auditory discrimination. Children are given a set of stimuli and are then asked to attach matching items.

The software eventually advances to expressive language skills to teach recognition of language and how to produce it.

In addition, there are also ‘NET activities’, or ‘natural environment teaching’, which are activities based in real-world situations.

“For instance, there is advice for other forms of games, like asking the child to pick out items at the shop that are on your shopping list,” Dr Greenhill says.

“And there are videos and materials to guide and explain why the child is being taught something at a particular time.”

The two other prize winners included Dr Oyekoya Ayonrinde, for the Early Research Career prize for his Liver Fibrosis Test, and Professor Erik Helmerhorst, who won the runner-up prize for his Oral Diabetes Treatment, a new injection-free mimic of insulin for the treatment of diabetes.

By Laura Glitsos

(Source: Science Network Western Australia)

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Posted On: 1 September, 2011
Modified On: 19 March, 2014


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