Three members of the Department of Multimedia and Graphic Arts and the Cyprus Interaction Lab have been awarded the ‘Best Social Impact Award’ at the Cyprus Digital Championship 2014 competition. The team consists of Fernando Loizides, Iosif Kartapanis and Francesca Sella.
The team are developing a mobile application called Mi.L.A (Minority Languages and Autism) which assists children with autism in developing cognitive and communication abilities. The development of the application has many facets and a part of it will be to be used in places where the access to therapy in limited of unavailable. The application specifically targets languages that are in the minority in terms of mobile device material for autism.
“We recognize that there is lack of applications that cater for children with autism for minority languages. This is reasonable from a business perspective since there are more ‘clients’ to buy or use your application. A child with autism however, should not have to (and most often is not able to) receive therapy in a second language. We aim to create applications that target minority languages in order to facilitate parents and therapists with the tools in order to help their children, especially in lands where there are limited resources for therapy sessions.”
The team is also interested in passing on cultural heritage which children with autism often do not have the opportunity to experience since the focus is on teaching communication skills rather than knowledge.
“We aim to give children with autism the chance to experience learning about traditional culture and stories which other children are exposed to by books or storytelling by their parents. Currently, children with autism are limited in the way they can understand information, which creates a barrier to the carer to be able to pass on this heritage and culture. Using appropriate applications for mobile devices, with the correct interaction and content, we hope to be able to create stories appropriate for children with autism. The project began using native Cypriot scenes, but will expand to other cultures.”
The application being developed will benefit several institutions on the island and also worldwide. Currently, the team has received backing from several international partners from countries including Israel, Estonia, India, South Africa and New Zealand. The team is now looking to release the official version of the software which will be customised to every individual and available free of charge.