Delhi teen develops app to help those with autism spectrum disorder communicate
A Class 12 student of a Delhi school has developed “We Can Express”, a mobile-based application for people suffering from autism spectrum disorder that will help them interact and communicate easily and also provide a platform to manage a user’s daily schedule using unique images and icons.
Shruti Kakar, the 17-year-old developer who studies in Springdales School, Dhaula Kuan, came up with an idea to develop this app a year ago while volunteering for the inclusive education centre at her school.
“I developed the app for people with the disability or inability to communicate verbally. I had met a boy my age some couple of years ago at my mother’s clinic who suffered from mild autism spectrum disorder. It was my first interaction with someone who had this condition. Last year, I volunteered at my school’s inclusive education centre and mentored a child with the condition,” Kakar said.
Autism spectrum disorder is among the most common behavioural disorders in children.
It took Kakar a year to develop the application. It is fairly simple to use once one signs up. The first step is to download the app. Then one needs to create customised speech icons, and next, the app can be used to communicate.
“I researched in detail on what these people like, what colours and images they are comfortable with before working on the app. It is an easy-to-use application, and some users in the spectrum who have difficulty in putting thoughts to words may find it easier to use pictures to communicate and express themselves,” she said.
“The visual schedule feature is a great tool for the user to complete daily, basic tasks like self-care, visiting a barber etc.,” said Kakar.
The app is available both on Google Play store and App Store for download.
The app is already being used at a few places with positive feedback.
“It’s being used primarily in schools as we want children to be familiar with its use. Also, it is easier for children to adapt to a new technology. We are in touch with various special needs schools and hope to make them use this app. I have conducted webinars for feedback and made changes accordingly, like including icons related to Covid-19 pandemic that has masks etc.,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly one in 10 people has a mental health condition globally. And yet, more than a quarter of the world’s population live in a country where there is less than one psychiatrist for every 100,000 people.
Experts in the field say apps like these may not solve everyone’s problems but are definitely a step in the right direction for people with autism spectrum disorder since they have problems in communicating verbally.
“Since we are far from getting a cure for autism spectrum disorder, it helps to add even little, little things into the treatment basket that can make their life easy. Communication is an issue and these apps help in solving that problem. So the more mediums we have the better,” said Pulkit Sharma, a Delhi-based consultant clinical psychologist.