LAHORE: At a seminar on the ninth World Autism Awareness Day, three special mobile applications, AHSAS, AGHAZ and BOL, were launched here on Sunday to support autistic children.

The seminar was organised by the Autism Spectrum Disorders Welfare Trust (ASDWT) at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS), says a press release.

The applications were developed by a team of the LUMS Human Computer Interaction Lab (Chisel) and directed by Dr Suleman Shahid in liaison with ASDWT for consultation regarding the digital needs of autistic children.

ASDWT chairperson Rukhsana Shah said autistic kids were isolated from society due to the communication gap which existed because of them being either nonverbal or having articulation issue.

In Pakistan it is absolutely essential for these kids to be able to communicate in Urdu in order to bridge this gap and these applications could play a crucial role, she said.

Dr Shahid said AGHAZ was the application that aimed to cater to this need. It could be used by teachers/therapists and parents to work with their children and help them learn Urdu language.

He said AHSAS aimed to provide an interactive interface that helped autistic children understand their own emotions as well as the emotions of others. It also focused on improving their social interaction; understanding emotions in a social context and being able to react to everyday situations effectively, he said.

BOL is an application designed with a focus to develop child’s language and improve his intent to communicate. It uses picture symbols and voice synthesis in Urdu as well as English to help users create messages.

ASDWT’s senior clinical psychologist Asma Ahmed said there was a dire need for autism centre at the government level. There are few specific private autism centres, but unfortunately their charges are too high to be afforded by even a mediocre family.

Proper legislation should be passed for inclusive education so that every ASD child can avail himself of the right to study in a mainstream school.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2017

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