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Technology can help people with autism understand emotions

Readers may remember Google Glass, the wearable technology product that uses an eyeglasses model to display information before the wearer’s eyes and that operates using voice commands. While Google stopped selling the product because of privacy concerns involving the device’s camera, it is still the focus of research into adaptations that could benefit people with autism and other disabilities, according to a recent San Francisco Chronicle article.

Stanford University medical researchers ran a promising clinical trial in the San Francisco area that tested an adaptation to Google Glass to help people with autism recognize which emotions are associated with various facial expressions, to increase comfort with making eye contact and to measure behavioral changes.

 

Specifically, the wearer identifies the emotion connected with a facial expression and inside the glasses, an icon signals whether the answer is correct. To promote eye contact, the person wearing the glasses gets credit for an answer only when they look directly at the face in question before answering.

The two-year Stanford trial involved more than 70 children with different forms and levels of autism. Significantly, the Chronicle cites one of the adapted software developers as explaining that those “who used the software in their homes showed a significant gain on the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales, a standard tool for tracking the behavior of those on the autism spectrum …”

The Chronicle says that other technological ideas such as robots and talking assistants (like Alexa) may also eventually assist people with disabilities.

Historically, adaptive technology (especially that used for communication) has been expensive and families have struggled to find funding sources. An attorney could help explore whether a public benefit program or insurance policy might help cover these costs or whether a special-needs trust or ABLE account might be an appropriate source of funds.

 

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