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iCERi - Autism Technology in Madrid

Kristan MillerI was enrolled in HDFS 490, and a major requirement for this course is the development of a capstone project. For my capstone project, I proposed surveying my co-workers to identify effective resources/interventions that they currently or previously employed when working with children with autism and related disorders. The results of the survey would then be considered and a resource-sharing program developed. Therapeutic support staff and mobile therapists would use the program as an index to access the most effective intervention for their clients' specific diagnosis(es) or behaviors.

I successfully developed a resource-sharing initiative and presented the outcome of my work at the Spring 2011 Learning Fair, where I was awarded first place.

Afterward, I wondered how I could continue to help my co-workers and clients. So, I continued working on my project. What was once just a class project became an all-consuming passion for effective delivery of therapeutic services.

While completing coursework for another class, I videotaped mock-counseling sessions. The purpose of the videos was to allow students an opportunity to assess themselves and each other, gaining critical insight about how they interact with clients. With the insight I gained from that invaluable experience and the work from my capstone project, I considered the following: Children with autism experience difficulty with mirror neuron function. Mirror neuron dysfunction leads to an individual's difficulty and/or inability to gain insight into others’ thoughts and actions. Individuals with autism may have trouble thinking about others’ thought processes. If individuals with autism have mirror neuron dysfunction, how will they be able to relate effectively to the content and as a result learn the appropriate behavior?

After consulting with faculty, mentors, and experts in the field, I identified a potential solution: an app that would allow an individual with autism to superimpose his/her image as well as a caregiver’s image into the social story being used to learn normative behaviors. This allows individuals with autism to more easily relate to the story and learn normative behaviors.

My mentor and professor Gina Jones then submitted my idea to the iCERi 2011 - International Conference of Education Research and Innovation. To my surprise, I was notified that my work was accepted for presentation at the conference.

I traveled with Ms. Jones to Madrid in November 2011 for the iCERi Conference, where there was a poster presentation of my work to over 650 participants. Everyone was very welcoming and respectful, and asked questions about my work. When I discussed my research, I was often asked if I have a Ph.D. I was taken aback by their comments, and they were quite shocked when I explained that I was an undergraduate student.

PictureMe Learning is the name of my app and potential company. I have purchased the web domain and am currently in the midst of patent and copyright applications as well as developing a full business plan for my company.