At an early age, 12-year-old Aryan Debnath from Gurgaon became used to the silence around him, as he struggled with the problem of delayed speech and Autistic Spectrum Disorder, which made communication difficult. Interest in coding helped him develop an app to help other autistic children like him. Considering Aryan has speech challenges, his mother, Anamika Sengupta, spoke on his behalf to Education Times.
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Education and autism
“Even today, regular educators follow a basic programme for autistic children, without distinguishing one student from the other. Unfortunately, in most cases, autism is equated with intellectual disability,” tells Sengupta.
“Last year, my mother found a one-on-one class option offered by Whitehat Jr. I finally had a teacher who accommodated my needs at my pace,” says Aryan. Gradually, teachers started understanding his speech and encouraged him in his ideas. “I used to jot down my ideas, as verbal communication was difficult,” says Aryan.
As Aryan started working on the coding platform, he conveyed to his mentors the need to develop applications to address issues being faced by people with any disability. “An internal competition required us to solve real-life issues, which was to be later followed with building a related app. My idea to develop an optic-friendly application that would help patients with autism won me fourth prize in the competition,” says Aryan.
About the creation
From his own experience, Aryan was able to pinpoint most issues that children with autism face in their daily lives. “A major problem is lack of communication and social skills. Thus, visuals become important as these help us communicate better,” he says.
In the ‘Companion’ app, Aryan has developed a calendar that helps children with autism and caregivers understand and adapt to their daily schedule. The app also has emotional cues to help users express themselves. “If a child is suffering emotionally, the app helps him/her spell it for the caregivers. Also, few autistic children are completely non-verbal and are unable to even ask for water or permission to use the washroom. The app helps these children as well,” he tells.
Aryan has also developed a visual library, where he has uploaded pictures that cover daily needs. “If a child wants to go for a movie, visit a restaurant or see a doctor, he/she can use the related picture from the library to communicate to their caregiver,” he says.
An important part of the app is the in-danger feature. “Suppose a child is feeling insecure, he can switch on the danger button that is accompanied with a siren sound so the people around him will know that something is wrong. There is a tracking feature to help parents track the child,” he adds.
Aryan’s focus is to customising the app to make it better. “I want to incorporate a camera in the next version. Sometimes, in a public place, autistic children face humiliation or get bullied. In such cases, a single click will activate the camera, and it can record the event. In case guardians seek legal assistance, they can present the recording,” he tells.
Aryan is hoping to release an improvised version of the app soon. The app should soon be available on the IOS App store soon, tells Aryan.