As we start another year, I’m looking forward to an exciting new programme of evaluation with the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education (UMGSE) and the seven autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) schools in the UK who are partnering Ai-Media from January 2015.

The schools, who are all committed to achieving the best outcomes for their students, are part of the Ai-Live for ASD evaluation programme.

Ai-Live supports the learning styles and challenges faced by young people with an ASD by addressing problems of social communication and auditory processing.  Many have a very literal interpretation of language, and this leads to issues in understanding figurative speech, metaphor and complex instructions. Many are visual learners.

Delivered via a mobile telephone link to any web enabled device, iPad, tablet or interactive whiteboard, the teacher’s speech is transformed into text, enabling the student to view what is being said. For students with an ASD this is delivered in the form of Simple Text.

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Ai-Live Simple Text removes metaphor and figurative language. It breaks down complex instructions into simple steps and delivers content in a simple form, with one idea in each sentence. Transcripts are available for revision and reflection after the live session.

We all have experience of situations where students have difficulties at a level which demands withdrawal from the class. The technology allows these students to  continue to access the lesson via a tablet in a less stressful environment. This also  allows other pupils to continue without distraction. The technology used in these circumstances can also be used for students who cannot attend school  for reasons of anxiety or behaviour and are home-based, and allows them to participate in lessons remotely.

For visual learners, the reinforcement provided by seeing what is said is immensely valuable. For those with auditory processing issues, the built-in time delay of a few seconds allows them to better process the information and lesson content.

Students who have high levels of anxiety often exhibit behaviours which prevent them engaging with lesson content. The reduction in anxiety achieved by using the visual reinforcement of captions can increase time on task, mindfulness and focus.

The ability to change the font and the background colours also helps to address the sensory sight issues experienced by some students.

The programme is delivered via either half-hour or hour-long sessions. We have found so far that the half-hour sessions are most useful, although one school is using the technology for a debating group in one-hour chunks!

Where the captions are delivered to an interactive whiteboard and are available to the whole class, the benefit is widened for students with English as an additional language and any others who might need support in accessing and understanding lesson content.

Ai-Media is engaged with the University of Melbourne Graduate School of Education in the evaluation of Ai-Live for ASD. Teachers complete a Behavioural Rating Scale (BRS) to measure attention and arousal control, emotional regulation, social skills, school and learning behaviours, sensory issues and how students use tablets. The BRS is completed before starting to use the technology and at regular periods during the term. By measuring these particular items, researchers can assess the impact of Ai-Live on behavioural hindrances to learning.

I am looking forward to working both with the group of teachers involved and the UMGSE. It’s truly inspirational!

Written by Eileen Hopkins, Executive Director UK

Eileen Hopkins

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