Children with autism spectrum disorder around the world are going to be able to receive alternative methods of education specialized to them, thanks to Purdue University Startups.
Nancy Rasche, a clinical assistant professor and founder of the Purdue-affiliated startup Experience Design Group, LLC, has been developing an app for more than a year that will help special needs students in the school system. The app is to help with the children's reinforcement skills.
"I am a person motivated by helping others," Rasche said. "I have friends that have special needs children and this subject is one of my passions."
In graduate school, Rasche found her interest with autism and how children with autism used and were engaged with mobile iPad apps. After researching the instructional needs that these children have, she found that children with this disorder are good at decoding words, but they often don't fully understand the meaning of those words.
Rasche created the Literacy Labels app to be used like a QR code reader. She created printable labels for simple objects that can be placed on those items in their environments, such as the bedroom or bathroom. Once the children have the app open, they scan the codes and the app will say the word to them, spell it out, and give them the opportunity to also do the same thing. The app also has games and themes that the children enjoy.
"We were working with children that liked the Seven Dwarves, so we made codes centered around the Seven Dwarves," Rasche said. "If the children really like Disney, we could do that as well."
Rasche was able to develop the app through her startup company and the Purdue University Research Foundation.
One of the foundation's goals is to connect the university's technologies to commerce. Last year, the foundation helped Purdue launch its greatest number of startups ever, having the most in the Big Ten and third-most in the country. The foundation helps researchers such as Rasche receive their intellectual property licenses, which give them patents on their inventions.
Although the app is only a prototype, Rasche and her company have big plans for what they want to do with it in the future. She wants to make the app capable of scanning virtual QR codes, so the children can use the app at the grocery store, in the library or at the zoo.
"Some students and staff at Purdue don't believe they own their inventions here at the University," said Dan Hasler, president and CEO at the Research Foundation. "We have students doing incredible things, but are afraid that their property will get taken by the University. The foundation is here to give them their license so that they can work with their inventions at Purdue to make their dreams come true."