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Tablet games to help kids with autism

Researchers have developed the world’s first tablet games specifically designed to help children with developmental disabilities such as autism and Down syndrome.

The technology – developed with researchers from Monash University, DreamWorks contractor Torus Games and technology commercialisation firm Grey Innovation – has been tested in a pilot study aimed at determining whether using the games for 20 minutes, five days a week over five weeks leads to improved attention and focus. The games also teach social skills to help children adjust to school.

Lead researcher professor Kim Cornish, from Monash University’s school of psychological sciences, said the program was different to the countless other apps that have been developed for kids with autism, as it is being clinically tested and is based upon 20 years of previous research.

“The majority of autism apps focus on social skills training. [That’s important but] it is the ability to improve cognitive skills alongside behavioural skills that is of utmost importance,” Cornish said.

A randomised trial of the apps showed children who used them could sustain attention longer and had improved numeracy abilities. But whether these new apps have longer-term benefits has yet to be determined.

Furthermore, Cornish also said current standardised testing measures to determine the exact nature of cognitive and behavioural difficulties, such as IQ tests, fail to adequately give a measurement of these difficulties. She also said there are few intervention methods that can improve core attention skills in children with these developmental disabilities

About 3 per cent of Australian children have a developmental disability.

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