Autism Language Program Research and Innovation

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Use of Technology

The Autism Language Program has a long history of using technology to help children communicate and learn. In our evaluations we try to connect a child's needs with available and appropriate technology. When such technology does not exist, we make every effort to develop it.

Please see our latest software programs for children with autism:

Puddingstone Place
Learning Together with Music

Given the usually strong interest in computers with children with autism, clinicians in the ALP are always looking for ways to use the computer and media to improve a child's performance in communication, understanding, and learning.

Research and Development

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For more than 25 years, our research and development has been intricately tied to our clinical work. We have a long history of using technology in our center to help children communicate and learn. It is our intention to recommend software and hardware combinations that will allow our patients to communicate and learn more effectively. We try to connect a child's needs with available and appropriate technology. When such technology does not exist, we make every effort to develop it.

Recent Survey

Our clinical observations have revealed that children on the spectrum are interested in all forms of electronic media. We conducted an extensive survey to quantify this observation. We surveyed 90 families of children (age 3-15) with autism from the Midwest and the east coast.

Partial results of the survey:

  • Children had extensive computer, television and video interest.
  • Animated characters were more interesting than human figures.
  • Majority of the children spend more time with media than they do with all other forms of play combined.

These findings are helping us discover ways to use animated characters as therapeutic tools to help children learn language.

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Computer Technology

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Most children with autism currently use the computer only for entertainment. In the ALP, our clinicians will observe your child using the computer to determine:

  • how your child interacts with the computer
  • if they imitate
  • if they follow directions
  • if they react to graphics and sound
  • if they respond to instruction while self-engaged in a software program

Our clinicians are then able to make recommendations that put better controls and focus on computer use. It is our aim to maximize the power of the computer for persons on the autism spectrum so that it truly becomes a learning tool instead of just another form of self-stimulation. Specific software recommendations are often made which can assist in this process.

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Video Technology and Interaction

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Our clinicians also examine whether your child's skills will improve with the use of media and videos. We look to see if there a window of instructional opportunity that will allow us to teach a skill better with video than with live (in vivo) instruction.

We look to determine if:

  • we capture your child's attention
  • your child imitates
  • your child engages in symbolic play

Positive findings then lead us to the use of visual media as an instructional approach, known as observational learning.

Observational Learning
Observational learning typically involves a student with autism viewing a prerecorded video where a model teaches specific behaviors and concepts.

Two-way Observational Learning
In the ALP, we have pioneered the use of a two-way observational environment where there is a real-time, interactive connection between the learner, who appears on a TV monitor in one room, and an instructor, who appears on a separate TV monitor in another room. This is an innovative way to use video to teach children with autism essential concepts and ideas.

In both methods, we look at imitations, activities of daily living (ADL), language learning, and social skills.

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Recent Survey

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Our clinical observations have revealed that children on the spectrum are interested in all forms of electronic media. We conducted an extensive survey to quantify this observation. We surveyed 90 families of children (age 3-15) with autism from the Midwest and the east coast.

Partial results of the survey:

  • Children had extensive computer, television and video interest.
  • Animated characters were more interesting than human figures.
  • Majority of the children spend more time with media than they do with all other forms of play combined.

These findings are helping us discover ways to use animated characters as therapeutic tools to help children learn language.

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Our Sponsors

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The Autism Language Program wishes to acknowledge the generous support for our research and development from the following organizations and individuals:

Timothy Barberich and Eileen Gebrian

Ronald and Lisa Oliver

Richard J. Fasenmyer Foundation

2008 Boston Marathon runners and their patient partners

Falmouth Road Race runners and their patient partners

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This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

This department is currently not accepting appointment requests online. Please call us at: 617-355-6000. International +1-617-355-6000.

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Contact the Autism Language Program

  • Lynne Moran

  • 1-781-216-2209
The future of pediatrics will be forged by thinking differently, breaking paradigms and joining together in a shared vision of tackling the toughest challenges before us.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO
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