Research Foundation News

November 21, 2017

Purdue startup specializing in children diagnosed with minimally verbal autism presents at national conference

LOS ANGELES and WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Oliver Wendt, chief science officer of Purdue-affiliated company SPEAK MODalities, presented at the recent annual American Speech-Language-Hearing Association convention with Barbara Weber, a member of ASHA’s professional development committee, in Los Angeles.

Wendt’s startup developed SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore!, augmentative and alternative communication mobile applications for children diagnosed with autism, in order to promote speech and language learning in its users. Based on research in AAC for enhancing speech and language production, the iPad or Android applications allow users to build spoken sentences and learn early language concepts.

Wendt and Weber presented “Evidence-Based Augmentative & Alternative Communication Strategies for Early Intervention in Autism Spectrum Disorders,” to share clinical intervention strategies for the use of SPEAKall! and contribute to the professional development for attending speech-language therapists.

“My colleague, Barbara Weber, works as a private clinician for early intervention and uses the SPEAKall! app with great success,” said Wendt, who leads a research lab on AAC and autism at Purdue University. “Based on our work in this area, we shared our intervention ideas and clinical examples from our partnership with the wider community at the convention.”

The event hosts approximately 15,000 professionals in the speech-language pathology industry and provides information on the latest research findings and technologies to advance services for those impacted by communication disorders.

“Basically, our technology addresses any individual with severe autism or another developmental disability that inhibits natural speech,” Wendt said. “In the SPEAKall! application, children learn to communicate through graphic symbols and vocalize through the platform’s speech output.”

The presentation also introduced the new update to this application, which includes SPEAKtogether!, a cloud-based data management feature enabling parents and caregivers to share lessons across mobile devices. SPEAKall!’s newest update will launch in the weeks following the ASHA Convention.

“The ASHA presentation launched the marketing campaign for the latest SPEAKall! version including SPEAKtogether!,” Wendt said. “Through this data management software, SPEAKall! lessons can be shared across devices: from clinicians to client-families or families to their support group friends. The sharing element allows learning activities to be more consistently implemented across social environments to maximize the benefits of AAC intervention.”

The research and development of SPEAKall! and SPEAKtogether! received support from the National Institutes of Health’s Small Business Innovation Research Grant program.

“This newest version of SPEAKall! is our final step toward completing the NIH’s mission for this grant,” Wendt said. “They specifically invited researchers to invent new speech and language learning technologies for individuals diagnosed with autism. We are very happy to actively contribute.”

This company has also won first place in the Best Medical Devices Product Design category at the 2017 ECN Impact Awards in Chicago.

“It’s our goal at SPEAK MODalities to provide valuable and impactful tools to those who need better intervention services,” Wendt said. “The ASHA Convention is a wonderful opportunity, as well, to engage in translational research, or to move research findings out of the lab and into the clinical world.”

SPEAK MODalities receives entrepreneurial and commercialization guidance from Purdue Research Foundation’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Purdue Foundry.

“Early intervention in autism is becoming a larger topic within the community,” Wendt said. “Speech-language therapists are being urged to intervene with children as young as 2 years old. We want to assist these daily practices with our technology and clinical experiences.”

The SPEAKMODalities’ app is available on Amazon at https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/speakall!/id478863940?mt=8

About Purdue Research Foundation

The Purdue Research Foundation is a private, nonprofit foundation created to advance the mission of Purdue University. Established in 1930, the foundation accepts gifts; administers trusts; funds scholarships and grants; acquires property; protects Purdue's intellectual property; and promotes entrepreneurial activities on behalf of Purdue. The foundation manages the Purdue Foundry, Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization, Purdue Research Park and Purdue Technology Centers. The foundation received the 2016 Innovation and Economic Prosperity Universities Award for Innovation from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. For more information about funding and investment opportunities in startups based on a Purdue innovation, contact the Purdue Foundry at foundry@prf.org.

Writer: Kelsey Henry, 765-588-3342, kehenry@prf.org

Purdue Research Foundation Contact: Cynthia Sequin, 765-558-3340, casequin@prf.org

Source: Oliver Wendt, owendt@speakmod.com


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