Children on the autistic spectrum find it difficult to understand social behaviours and find it hard to learn to interact in ways that other children can relate to. One aspect of the difficulty is that they often do not understand how they should control their voice and body. Their extreme behaviours scare other children away when they are trying to make friends.
For children it can be incredibly isolating and confusing - imagine, as a kid, if you were talking to someone you really wanted to make friends with; then suddenly the child you are talking to bursts into tears and you have no idea why.
For parents, it can be an incredibly painful process to see their children struggling in this way. Moreover, its very difficult for them to know how to help their autistic child to develop these social skills when such skills are usually learned intuitively and not explicitly taught.
Auti takes a few aspects of social interactions, and puts them in a safe environment where, through play, these interactions are repeated and learned from.Therefore, children learn positive play behaviors without social risk.
What is Auti?
Auti is a fluffy, interactive toy to help kids to develop positive play skills. He is a fluffy, round ball with four, smooth, white paddle legs. He is nice to hold and feel, with a strong contrast, both visually and texturally, between the fluffy body and the smooth legs. While animal-like, Auti does not look like a real animal; and, therefore, there are no expectations on how a child should play with him.
He has sound and motion sensors to tell when someone is talking or shouting. He can tell when he is being patted or stroked and if he is being thrown around. He can respond to his sensors by moving his legs in different ways to generate engaging behaviours: he can walk, sit and stand, he can wave his legs around like a turtle on his back, and he can perform various dances. When nothing is happening, he will walk for a short while, then turn off. He responds to gentle input - talking and patting - with constantly changing selections from his possible movement behaviours. When treated roughly or shouted at, he pulls in and shuts down.
How does Auti help?
Auti teaches speaking, touching, and collaborating skills. He quickly responds with happy movements to patting or speaking but will stop in response to negative behaviour such as hitting or screaming. Auti can be adjusted to respond to each childs individual characteristics, making him immediately compatible with the child.
There is plenty of research evidence that this type of positive and negative reinforcement works to change challenging behavior. We all have experienced it in our lives. Most of us crave praise, respect and rewards, and we hate being reprimanded or disciplined. Auti has also been developed with input from experts in education psychology and teaching.
There are a lot of challenges when nurturing autistic children and any way that we can make a difference is hugely rewarding.
Auti and other toys
There are very few toys on the market specifically designed for autistic children. I'm hoping to create a refined and tested Auti toy that children will love!
From all the feed back and research I have done, I know of no other toys that address the challenge of learning about positive and negative behaviours. Autism New Zealand have
said that it is very promising, and that it is a unique approach that they haven't seen in a toy before.
Whats next for Auti?
I have built a first prototype of Auti, and have tried it out with lots of adults and a few children. They like it: they want to hold it, stroke it, and play with it. They like the way he responds. It is clear from these trials that Auti is attractive and interesting. Feedback from experts has been very encouraging. The clear next step is to develop a more robust prototype which can be field tested with autistic children. From there, the aim is to start producing the refined toy and get it to the people who need it. I need your help getting it there.
Ways You Can Help
Please help us get Auti to those who need him.
One in a hundred children fall on the autistic spectrum.
It is one of the fastest growing behavioural disorders in the world.
We can not develop him without your help in funding.
So please support us if you can and spread the word about Auti and our IndiGoGo campaign.
- Share the IndiGoGo page with all your friends and contacts.
- Like this page on Facebook
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- Tell your friends and family to spread the word as well!