Whether looking for a job or navigating through life, communication skills are essential. Despite high levels of intelligence people with autism find these skills are extremely difficult to understand let alone master.
This can be particularly frustrating for the people who love and care for them. Each family develops their own system of understanding cues and alternatives to traditional conversation.
Joe Hill, an insurance salesman from Virginia, found it was easy to bond with his 2 autistic sons over a game of Angry Birds. His oldest son Deacon would explore the game for hours.
"He was saying, 'birds, birds,' and asking for it by name, which is a big deal because he doesn't say much," Hill said. "I hadn't seen him interact with toys like that at all. So I knew there was hope. I knew there's something in his mind that could be unlocked."
He wondered if he could take the concept of a phone game and turn it into a way to talk to his children and the concept for Aeir Talk was born. Hill’s idea took the traditional use of flash cards to teach communication and added a digital twist.
"I just really wanted something that was affordable and was also quality work," Hill said. "There were a lot of apps that did a lot of different things, but I really wanted a one-stop shop for people who had kids with autism."
Through repetition and recognition children interact with sentence structure hands on. Parents add their own images, labels and voice recording to create cards in categories like nouns and verbs. Children touch, drag and drop the cards into a staging area to create sentences.
Hill’s idea was great. He’d met with doctors, parents and investors who all agreed so he quit his job and focused full time on developing the app with We Are Titans, a Norfolk-based Web and mobile software development company. Unfortunately shortly after starting the funding fell through and Hill opted to pay his mortgage instead of moving forward with the project and he took a job scrubbing toilets at a hotel.
We Are Titans thought the project was too important to stall. Instead of letting it sit on the shelf they formed a partnership with Hill and went ahead with developing Aeir Talk.
"The type of company that we have, people call us every day with ideas - they have something they call the next Facebook, or something revolutionary," said Zack Miller of We Are Titans. "But not every day do we hear something like this."
Since launching the app, Hill has heard praises from parents and professionals across the board. The great thing is that the app isn’t specific to autistic children. All kids with developing language skills can benefit from playtime with this iTool.
By Heather Fairchild - Heather is a multimedia developer with experience in web, film, photography and animation as well as traditional fine arts like painting and sculpting. In addition to writing for Beyond.com, she is co-founder of a design and promotion company. Heather’s spare time consists of making puppets, teaching Sunday School, building Legos and doing science experiments with her children.