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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: December 16, 2009 @ 9:42 am

    The iPhone and autism

    Ciara O'Brien

    There is more to the iPhone than simply another high-tech digital device or accessory. Last week in Business This Week, I wrote about an app that’s currently being developed for the iPhone that helps children with autism communicate. The app, currently called Grace, was the idea of Lisa Domican, a mother to two children with autism. Her 10-year-old daughter Grace uses the app in place of the PECS books she relied on before.

    PECS, for those who have never come across it before, is a system that allows children to create sentences using appropriate pictures stuck to a strip of velcro on the book.

    The app has been developed to look exactly like a PECS book, even down to the velcro, so it’s as familiar as possible.

    Lisa has the backing of O2 with the application; they provided the handsets, for example. On the technical side, Steven Troughton-Smith is developing the app. He has featured in BTW before; back in January, John Collins wrote about Steven as Ireland’s most successful app developer, earning revenues of up to $1,000 a day.

    Lisa’s daughter Grace has become so comfortable with the iPhone, she uses it to add her own images, including one long gone toy that had to be located with the aid of the internet.

    The app won’t be suitable for every child, but for those who can use it, it should make a big difference. The phone is less conspicuous than the PECS book, for example, and can be updated more easily through the phone’s camera.

    The other key thing with the app is the screen. The iPhone’s screen is perfect for dragging and dropping the images on to the ‘velcro’, whereas other touch screens may not be as responsive. It’s currently being tested with more children, their carers and parents to see if it is easy to pick up.

    The full story on the iPhone app is here.