In Spike Jonze’s film Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays a man who falls in love with a Siri-like “digital assistant,” played by Scarlett Johansson. But falling in love with Siri doesn’t just happen in the movies. In The New York Times, there is a beautiful piece about a 10-year-old autistic boy named Gus whose best friend is Siri.
Autism is an epidemic that can’t be overstated. The disorder is really a spectrum of behaviors and needs, and it affects about one in every 50 children in the US alone.
The Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) has developed an app that puts its research-based interventions into an educational iPad app with mini games for reinforcement. The app, titled Autism Learning Games: Camp Discovery, provides children ages two to eight with direct instruction on topics that kids with Autism have trouble sorting out.
“The idea here is that there are so many things a kid needs to learn, to ‘catch up’ with their peers,” CARD’s chief strategy officer, Dennis Dixon told Cult of Mac during a phone call. “Autism has a number of skill deficits. ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) targets those skills one at a time.”
Camp Discovery, then, is like having a behavior intervention teacher on the iPad, presenting lesson after lesson with 100 percent accuracy. But will kids play with it?
Matthew Emmi is a twelve year old boy that probably won’t get to enjoy some of the milestone events in life that you and I might take for granted. His autism has severely limited his ability to read, write and speak sentences. But even though his family and friends never know exactly what he’s thinking, they do know that he likes going to synagogue, and with the help of an iPad, Matthew’s parents and educators were able to give Matthew a full bar mitzvah.