Alex works with our app together with his mom and his behavioral therapist. His speech therapist and the pre-school he attends join in as well, allowing him to play the app as a reward. Even though Alex’s first steps in our app were difficult, the boy is more and more eager to play the games. His focus has gotten better, he’s able to follow instructions, and while he’s working with the app, his challenging behavior disappears. Alex’s mother and his therapist tell us about the boy’s therapy.
Alex constantly works on translating the skills he learns through the app into practice in his everyday life. Alex’s mother has been helping him to learn to recognize emotions for a long time. “We train recognizing emotions in front of a mirror and in all other places where you can see your reflection. We even make faces in front of a porcelain toilet flusher”, she laughs.
“Alex used to drop down on the floor or jump from the table onto his knees”. Alex’s therapist adds, “Alex’s challenging behavior includes aggression, autoaggression, witzelsucht, resistance, crying, and visual and tactile stimulation. We’re addressing these issues with behavioral therapy. When Alex is working with the app, he doesn’t show any challenging behavior”. The therapist explains that the exercises offered by the app can improve concentration and the ability to react to instructions and follow them.
Watch Alex’s therapy
What’s the token economy about?
Alex’s mom takes care not to let Alex exit the task he’s doing. The boy is already familiar with the work flow, and has learned to stay in the app. He likes it a lot. He now understands that the tablet is for exercises only.
“Alex likes the token board on the bottom of the screen, and collecting tokens motivates him”, says Alex’s mom. When the board disappears during testing trials, the boy looks for it on the bottom of the screen.
The lack of a token board is extremely important in testing trials, as their goal is to check whether a child is able to spontaneously apply the knowledge and skills they have gained. Thus, the app doesn’t give out tokens during the testing trials to make sure that the child’s skills are independent of the promise of a reward. If they are, it means that the child will be able to use these skills in everyday life when needed. Keeping the reward system running at this stage would prevent a spontaneous use of skills.
Where are your ears?
Alex practiced all games in the learning mode. At the beginning, his mom tried to introduce a pattern, whereby the boy would first train in the learning mode, and move on to the improvement mode later. “Children with ASD respond well to patterns, which is why Alex was able to learn to distinguish the two different icons that appear in the app, one for the learning mode and the other for the improvement mode. He’s gotten used to selecting the learning mode first”, she says.
Within the first few weeks of his experience with the app, Alex learned to be patient. He can now focus longer on the task at hand. He’s also calmer and screams much less often.
Occupations is giving him trouble at the moment, so he avoids it. “Occupations are still a big enigma for Alex. For now, we’re working on expanding his vocabulary (nouns, adjectives, and verbs) and building sentences based on the words he knows and understands, such as, ‘I want to drink’ or ‘I see a red car’”, explains Alex’s therapist.
Alex recognizes all everyday vegetables but has problems distinguishing them in pictures. For instance, when he sees the pictures of an apple and a pepper, he needs to think for a longer while. Alex’s mom teaches the boy about parts of the body during bath time. It’s a great follow-up to working with the app. Alex points to all parts of his body without error. Only the ears are giving him trouble. “So far, Alex has learned about the parts of the body from a song about a bear, who has ears on top of its head. So now Alex points to the top of his head when asked about his ears”, she says. It’s worth pointing out that it’s very important to show realistic characters to a child with ASD, especially if the child is meant to learn something from these characters. A dancing bear pointing to its ears located on top of its head can be very confusing. Alex has switched to learning about the parts of the body from our app. We hope that with the help of Juno, the game’s protagonist, Alex will soon learn to point to his ears correctly.
We can’t wait for more reports about Alex’s successes!