Krit, 13, has been diagnosed with low functioning autism. He has very limited language skills with no awareness of other people. The doctor said he will not develop further.
By the third day of toying with the app, Krit was able to articulate Mae-ja.
Kijjaporn Chuenboon, Krit's mother, tried the True Autistic application for the first time after a recommendation from Prie Wungcharoen, the mobile app developer. Initially, she let her son play with the app for 10 minutes a day after class. The boy started to become interested in the pictures and sounds produced by the app.
By the third day of toying with the app, Krit was able to articulate Mae-ja (Mama).
"This is exactly what I have been waiting for the last 13 years," said Kijjaporn.
The app helps autistic children to learn through repeated listening. When the child clicks on the word, the app then says that word. The app also lets users alter the speed of the voice.
Previously, Krit could not utter a word even though his mother spoke to him all the time. But by the third day of interacting with the tablet, he could communicate with others or say what he wanted by clicking on the tablet and repeating what he heard.
Today, Krit can add to his vocabulary by taking photos by himself. In the past, he never made eye contact with his mother, nor did he show any interest in what she was doing, but today he observes and copies what she does.
"I'm so happy with this app and I would like other parents to try using it as they will see that the voice that they have been waiting for can really be audible," said Kijjaporn, adding that parents should let children use the app continuously and have it on every day.
According to Choosak Chantayanonda, president of the Autism Foundation of Thailand, there are some 370,000 autistic children in Thailand. The True Autistic application, which has been tested by children, has proven that it can boost the communication skills of autistic children.
Trace & Share improves children’s tracing skills through compelling fantasy stories that are both creative and attention grabbing.
Prie, senior product executive of IT Development of True Group, spent almost half a year talking to parents and teachers, learning about the lives of autistic children and the ways their parents supported them.
"We cannot understand these children through conversation. Unlike other children, autistics have problems with socialising, communication and daily life skills. While other children can learn social interaction, fine motor skills, communication and self-assistant skills by themselves, autistics cannot do those things," he said.
True Autistic features three parts: Daily Tasks, Trace & Share, and Communications. Each focuses on improving different aspects of skills in autistic children.
Three activities that will keep autistic children engaged include teeth brushing, showering and shampooing. The app has been designed to improve autistic children's fine motor skills as well as increase their concentration span which is essential to learning. The app aims to improve hand-eye coordination and focus through simple daily task stories that are both engaging and interactive. Children will have to go through different scenarios and complete each presented task.
"It is important for parents to be with their children when they use the app, and they have to keep talking to them to gauge their reactions," said Kijjaporn, noting that the app has made her son grin in spite of the fact that autistic children usually have only one facial expression.
Communications is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app that assists autistic people with speaking difficulties as well as improving their vocabulary. The app has remodelled the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), a universal methodology of teaching speech and communication to autistic people, and designed to build up a child's communication from foundation.
Trace & Share was designed to further enhance autistic children's fine motor and social skills. The goal of this application is to improve tracing skills through compelling fantasy stories that are both creative and attention grabbing. Children will have to trace through various lines with increasing difficulty. Part of this application will also teach children to take turns and share, which is an important foundation of social skills. This app is not only limited to people with autism. Children with concentration problems, Down's syndrome and social problems can also benefit from this application.
"By using the applications closely with parents and teachers, it is expected that autistic children will develop essential skills that are important to living a normal life," Prie said.
The applications are in Thai, but in the near future will be developed in English and Arabic as there have been plenty of requests from parents abroad.
"Autistic children have more profound perspectives than we think. Children who don't speak should be taught to communicate via pictures and practice speaking," Kijjaporn said, noting that the app is flexible and can be adjusted depending on the child's condition.
The True Autistic application can be downloaded free of charge, on both iOS and Android platforms, with the keyword
"True Autistic" or "Thai Autistic" at App Store or iTunes, and True Thai Autistic at Google Play store.
The program is a joint collaboration between True Corporation and the Autism Foundation of Thailand and the application will be officially launched as part events marking World Autism Awareness Day until April 4 at TK Palace.
The app has been designed to improve the kids’ fine motor skills and increase their concentration span.