SPEAK MODalities and the Augmentative and Alternative Communication Laboratory at Purdue University recently received a phase 1 research grant from NIH to advance autism technology that targets communication and language development in children with severe, nonverbal autism.
The startup company and laboratory received $152,599 in a one-year Small Business Innovation Research grant through NIH and National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, as well as an additional $50,000 in matching funds from the Indiana Economic Development Corporation and Elevate Ventures.
“There are so many challenges that children and families face when managing the various autism symptoms and I believe an inability to engage in communication and learn language is one of the most frustrating,” Oliver Wendt, PhD, co-founder of SPEAK MODalities and assistant professor at Purdue University, said in a press release. “The SPEAKall! app has made a tremendous improvement in establishing functional communication and emerging speech and language for children and adults on the autism spectrum, but we need to do more. The generous funding from the NIH and the state of Indiana through Elevate Ventures will provide us with the resources we need to advance new integrated technologies to help these individuals go beyond constructing simple sentences, grow their vocabulary and learn new language concepts and communicative functions.”
The funding will further development of SPEAKmore! and other mobile technologies for advanced speech and language training and progress tracking among children with poor verbal communication skills.
In addition, researchers plan to assess technical and clinical feasibility of three new integrated technologies that teach language through augmentative and alternative communication.
“The clinical research process provided through the SBIR award enables us to expedite the move of these new mobile technologies to the public and provide a novel set of intervention tools to help children and families with communication challenges,” Michael Zentner, PhD, MBA, co-founder and CEO of SPEAK MODalities, said in the release. “We believe the technology will help individuals produce more complex sentences and generalize newly learned language concepts that go well beyond what is currently available.”