SPEAK MODalities received the Education Tech Award during TechPoint’s 16th annual Mira Awards honoring the best of tech in Indiana. SPEAK MODalities is giving communication to children with autism and related disabilities with a set of tablet software apps used to teach speech and language skills.
SPEAK MODalities provides tablet apps that help children with autism and related cognitive disabilities learn speech and language. SPEAK MODalities apps are among the few language learning apps that focus specifically on autism, and are backed by evidence-based research and technology licensed from Purdue University. This effort has won commercialization awards from Purdue’s Innovation and Commercialization Center and the Trask Fund. It has also won the Purdue FOCUS award for outstanding contribution to disability accessibility and diversity. Most recently, SPEAK MODalities has won participation in the Village Capital accelerator in conjunction with the Texas Medical Center.
The judges for the Education Tech Award category were truly overwhelmed by the caliber and impact that all of the nominees are having on education in a wide variety of ways. However, the judges zeroed in on the specific use of technology and outcomes of the winner, SPEAK MODalities, and its addressing of the profound concern of autism, which is the largest growing development disease (now in 1 in every 68 births in the US).
Lack of speech development is devastating to the quality of life for children with autism and their families. It also causes a significant financial strain as those without communication require more intense care over their lifetimes. While there are software solutions for those with disabilities that prevent them from speaking, these are intended for a wide spectrum of disabilities. As a result, they are largely speech replacement devices for those who will not develop speech, and are not focused on the cognitive deficits of those with autism.
SPEAK MODalities took the opportunity to create a suite of products that serve this market specifically, not as speech replacement devices, but as learning aids that help the child initially develop verbal speech and continue with more advanced language training concepts as the child’s ability grows.
The products SPEAKall! (released) and SPEAKmore! (in lab testing) do just that. SPEAKall! is used with non-verbal or minimally verbal children to help them acquire verbal speech. It is a simple drag and drop interface that allows the child to start with one word requests and build to multiple word sentences. Working with an intervention professional and SPEAKall!, the child learns from voice modeling to produce speech.
SPEAKmore! then helps teach the child generalization skills. For example, children with autism can learn that the verb “drop” applies to the noun “ball” by rote training. However, it is difficult for them to understand that the verb “drop” actually can apply to many different nouns, and that the noun “ball” may be acted up on by many verbs. SPEAKmore! helps teach these children this type of generalization.
SPEAK MODalities has also achieved more than 23,000 downloads of its software so far, all without any major marketing push. Current studies of these technologies show an 80% effective rate in helping children develop some level of verbal communication. No other technology has evidence this robust.
TechPoint, Indiana’s tech ecosystem accelerator, honored 15 companies, entrepreneurs and educators on May 2, at the Mira Awards gala presented by BKD CPAs & Advisors. Mira — Latin for miracle and a variable star thousands of times brighter than the Earth’s sun — represents the best of tech in Indiana each year.
Forty-three independent, volunteer judges spent more than 700 collective hours reviewing and ranking the applications, interviewing the nominees and choosing the winners. Judges are primarily subject matter experts and experienced company founders and executives.
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