Point OutWords (TM) aims to help people with autism work with their parents, caregivers, teachers or therapists to learn how to communicate by pointing, typing or speaking.
Our and others' research has found about a third of people with autism who are labelled "nonverbal" or "minimally verbal" understand much more than they can say. These people have trouble planning and executing body movements, especially the rapid, finely coordinated movements of the throat, mouth and lips that are essential to speech. It seems that in this type of autism (though not in all people with autism!) -- trouble speaking arises from trouble coordinating movements. Even if using the mouth to speak might be too difficult, people with this kind of autism might be able to learn to communicate using their hands and fingers.
Point OutWords 'bootstraps' new communication skills by beginning from an activity at which many people with autism excel and that many enjoy -- assembling puzzles -- and harnessing this motivation to approach new challenges. Users begin by learning to point and to drag puzzle pieces in Point Mode. In addition to developing these basic motor skills, they become accustomed to the idea that objects consist of sequences of parts.
With Type Mode, users progress from pointing at puzzle pieces in sequence to pointing at letters of the alphabet in sequence, making the jump from communicating in pictures to communicating in words. Each letter pressed on the keyboard causes a puzzle piece to spring into place.
In Speak Mode, users practise pronouncing syllables in sequence. Each syllable pronounced causes a puzzle piece to spring into place.
Point OutWords is NOT DESIGNED TO BE USED INDEPENDENTLY of a caregiver, or to replace interaction with a caregiver. One-on-one interaction is an important way to develop social communication, and Point OutWords should be used as an occasion for interaction, not as a replacement for interaction. The user of Point OutWords depends on the caregiver to work in an 'errorless learning' format, modelling correct responses, redirecting attention to the task, and completing responses when the user goes off track. Success depends on giving the caregiver's attention and time, not just on giving the iPad.
Point OutWords is NOT FOR EVERYONE. It has been designed for people with autism who have trouble moving their mouths, and their bodies in general. There are many different kinds of autism - in a way, as many kinds as there are individual people with autism - and not every person with autism and limited speech will benefit. In fact there is no guarantee that anyone will benefit.
Although Point OutWords has been designed to develop communication, it has not yet been proven effective in doing so, and MIGHT NOT BE EFFECTIVE AT ALL. If you choose to consent to data collection, data from your use of Point OutWords can aid our efforts to find out whether it is effective. (If you choose not to consent, of course no data will be shared.)
With Family Sharing set up, up to six family members can use this app.