Research Foundation News

October 25, 2018

Giving a voice: Purdue technology assisting nonverbal children with autism wins Autism Hero and GAIN 18 Awards

Gain casas Victoria Casas (center) and her mother Elba Casas (right) complete a language learning activity on SPEAKall! with the help of former Purdue student Madison Logan. (Purdue Research Foundation image/Oren Darling) Download image

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Two Purdue-licensed technologies assisting speech and language development in children with nonverbal autism have won awards from the German Academic International Network (GAIN) and the Anna Kennedy Online Charity.

SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore! mobile applications won GAIN’s best startup idea and Anna Kennedy Online Charity’s Autism Hero Entrepreneurial Award. The Autism Society reports nearly 3.5 million Americans live with autism spectrum disorder, and rates of diagnosis have risen to one in 59 children.

“Nearly 66 percent of children on the autism spectrum experience some level of difficulty acquiring spoken language,” said Oliver Wendt, the German technology inventor. “The technology we provide can be life-changing for children and adults as well as their parents and caregivers.”

Wendt, a University of Central Florida faculty member, developed the mobile platforms SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore!, and both platforms have received international recognition moving speech-language pathology’s traditional communication boards onto mobile devices.

SPEAKall! functions as a smart device communication board, which teaches students to associate words and images. In the application, students choose digital cards and move them to the speech bar, then the application reads the sequence aloud word by word. Users, caregivers and clinicians also can upload their own photos or word cards into the application to personalize the program for each learner’s individual needs.

Gain Wendt Oliver Wendt, inventor of SPEAKall! and SPEAKmore!, speaks at the GAIN 18 conference before winning GAIN 18 Award for best technology. (Photo provided) Download image

“SPEAKall! is really a very versatile speech and language learning platform,” Wendt said. “What makes it so successful is its flexibility to target a variety of learning goals from early communication to emerging language and social interaction. Essentially, SPEAKall! can grow with the learner as needs and capabilities grow.”

SPEAKmore! enables children who have advanced beyond the capabilities of SPEAKall! to expand their vocabulary and message complexity. The SPEAKmore! application enhances early language learning by bring a matrix training approach to mobile devices.

GAIN hosted a Boston conference in order to showcase research and commercialization efforts. Competing against five other start-up teams, Wendt explained how his mobile technologies make a critical impact for children and adults affected by severe autism.

As part of the award program, Wendt will travel to Germany for individualized, entrepreneurial mentoring from business experts.

Wendt also received the 2018 Autism Hero Entrepreneurial Award from the Anna Kennedy Online Charity, after reaching nearly a thousand users in England. The charity’s mission is to raise autism awareness across the world by creating networks and supporting autism communities. Read more here.

Wendt developed both mobile applications while serving as a Purdue University faculty member, and the development was supported by a National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders grant.

“Our initial support for the technology’s clinical validation came from the Purdue Center for Families led by director Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth,” Wendt said. “They were one of the first research sponsors to help these technologies get off the ground and develop intervention protocols for easy implementation in family homes. I’m honored to have the Purdue Center for Families as a partner and to serve on their advisory board.”

Both technologies are licensed through Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization.

The technology aligns with Purdue's Giant Leaps Sesquicentennial Campaign celebrating the university’s global advancements made in health, space, artificial intelligence and sustainability highlights as part of Purdue’s 150th anniversary. Those are the four themes of the yearlong celebration’s Ideas Festival, designed to showcase Purdue as an intellectual center solving real-world issues.

About Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization

The Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization operates one of the most comprehensive technology transfer programs among leading research universities in the U.S. Services provided by this office support the economic development initiatives of Purdue University and benefit the university's academic activities. The office is managed by the Purdue Research Foundation, which 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. For more information on licensing a Purdue innovation, contact the Office of Technology Commercialization at innovation@prf.org.

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

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

Sources: Oliver Wendt, 407-823-4772, wendto@purdue.edu

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