Early intervention is critical for children diagnosed with autism. Unfortunately, there is often a long gap of waiting, and wasting, time between a "formal" diagnosis and therapy. We describe TOBY Playpad (www.tobyplaypad.com) whose goal is to close this gap by empowering parents to help their children early. TOBY stands for Therapy Outcome by You and currently is an iPad application. It provides an adaptive syllabus of more than 320 activities developed by autism and machine learning experts to target key development areas which are known to be deficit for ASD children such as imitation, joint attention and language. TOBY delivers lessons, materials, instructions and interactions for both on-iPad and Natural Environment Tasks (NET) off-iPad activities. TOBY is highly adaptive and personalized, intelligently increasing its complexity, varying prompts and reinforcements as the child progresses over time. Prompting and reinforcing strategies are also recommended for parents to make the most of everyday opportunities to teach children. Essentially, TOBY removes the burden on parents from extensive preparation of materials and manual data recording. Three trials on 20, 50 and 36 children with AutismWest (www.autismwest.org.au) have been conducted since last year. The results are promising providing evidence of learning shown in skills that were not present previously in some children. NET activities are shown to be effective for children and popular with parents.
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