Kids with severe autism or cerebral palsy can have a difficult time communicating. While assistive devices are available, they are often sophisticated and expensive. Now, a new partnership between a Brazilian inventor and a hospital in Orlando is making it easier and less expensive.
Music and dance are soothing to four year old Anna Stinson, she has autism and has not formed many words.
"I'd see the pain in her eyes," said her mother, Angelique Hall. "Because she's literally trying to tell her mommy something and she knows her mommy doesn't understand."
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But for the past few months, Hall has opened a window into Anna's world using a specially designed app called Livox that displays images that are personal to her.
"Livox means liberty through voice," said Brazilian engineer Carlos Pereira, the man who created Livox to communicate with his daughter Clara, who was born with cerebral palsy.
Livox falls under the umbrella of augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC. It allows for easier communication between caregivers and people with special needs who have trouble verbally communicating.
"We have a deep understanding of the needs of people with disabilities and how to transform those needs into software," says Periera.
It can be adjusted based on a persons needs, with simple pictures, words, colors, and lighting, organized by categories to assist a person based on what they are looking to communicate.
Hall says Anna often repeats the words she has learned on the device and over several months, her daughter has gone from one word to short phrases.
Livox has more than 20,000 users in Brazil. Now, Florida Hospital's Pediatric Rehabilitation has partnered with Periera to test the system with their pediatric rehab patients.
"It provided access to a group of patients who weren't getting it because of the cost and because of the types of tools available in that space," said Ashley Simmons, director of Innovation Development at Florida Hospital.
Periera says because Livox is considered an alternative communication device, it's important that families work in consultation with their speech therapists when using it.
It is available on the Google Play Store for $250. The Livox team of engineers is currently working off of a $550,000 grant from Google to improve the new technology even further.