One of the major hurdles we’re having to overcome with my son’s autism is getting him to speak. Sure he’s got a couple of broken words and some sounds we’ve come to recognize but he really started making great leaps forward when he started working with a PECS book. PECS, which stands for Picture Exchange Communication System, presents autistic kids with pictures of commonly used items on a velcro board that lets them arrange and interchange them to form sentences. Once a sentence is made the child must repeat what the sentence says (yes he taught himself to read) and then they can have the item. For some PECS doesn’t work, though and often communication between parent and child is very difficult. One father of an autistic child took PECS a step farther by creating a software program that literally speaks the sentences put together by the child.
The program, created by Stephen Lodge of the UK, allows the user to drag and drop images from one area of the screen to another to form sentences. The machine then verbalizes the sentences.
Lodge hopes the device will benefit not only children with autism but anyone who has lost the ability to speak such as stroke and cancer survivors.
Currently the system is only available for Windows computers and a proprietary touch device but Lodge hopes to port the device over to any platform and even mobile phones.
For more information you can check out the BBC’s piece on the software.