Keene State College professor granted patent for phone app to be used by people with autism
Professor Larry Welkowitz, a scholar at New England Council member Keene State College, along with world-renowned concert pianist Robert Taub received a U.S. patent for an app to help those on the autism spectrum. The new app called SpeedMatch allows users to load customized phrases and a library of phrases for reference for people to receive immediate visual feedback to improve social interactions and conversational skills.
Professor Welkowitz and Mr. Taub began working together on this project 10 years ago with the intention of creating an app to teach people on the autism spectrum to match patterns of sounds in conversations. Since the app’s initial release two years ago, research has been conducted to understand the effects of the app.
Research on SpeechMatch was administered by Dartmouth Medical Center and the National Institute of Health and with funding from the Innovative Biomedical Research Excellence. It was revealed that the app improves the conversational speech of people diagnosed with autism. Welkowitz claims that what makes this effort different from other research in this field is that the study on improving functions of conversation—understanding pitch, rhythm and volume—are often neglected. Both Welkowitz and Taub stated that SpeechMatch can help people understand rhythm and sounds which could have the potential to be helpful for language learners. “We can really help people on the spectrum engage people, have more friends and more of a special network if we teach them these skills,” Welkowitz said. “My goal is not to make them sound like me. I just want to sensitize them to the idea that how they speak matters.”
SpeechMatch is available for download on the Apple App store.
The New England Council would like to commend Professor Welkowitz, Mr. Taub and Keene State College on their ongoing research to create accessible technology for individuals with autism.
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