There is broad scientific consensus that early and intensive behavioral intervention has the greatest chance of positive impact on an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). However, the availability, quality, and general funding for early-intervention programs is often lacking, leaving newly diagnosed children without adequate therapy during the most critical period of their development.
Parent-administered, iPad-assisted therapy has the potential to reduce the gap between the amount of therapy recommended for children with ASD and the amount they receive. Working with a team of neuroscientists, educators, artists and developers, we created MITA, an early-intervention application for children with ASD.
Children with ASD often focus on a single cue at a time, ignoring all other important features of an object. For example, a child who is asked to pick up a red crayon may over-attend to the cue “red” and pick up any available red object. This limitation is known as stimulus over-selectivity or “tunnel vision” and it can affect virtually every area of the child’s functioning. MITA games are designed to incrementally train a child’s ability to notice multiple features of objects and to mentally integrate those objects into a single gestalt.
MITA’s main objective is to test the hypothesis that regular, prolonged practice over the course of at least two years with the MITA application will result not only in a greater ability to attend to multiple cues and in reduction in stimulus overselectivity, but that it will also lead to vast improvements of transfer tasks measuring visuospatial as well as communicative skills.
From concept to launch and beyond, my role as one of the founding members behind this project has always been to ensure a smooth user experience for both administrators of the therapy, as well as the young child going through the daily exercises.