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"Hacking Autism" Announces Technology Tools Selected for Development to Help Individuals with Autism

Autism Speaks and Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation Selected Apps from Crowd-sourced, Community-Generated Ideas with help from HP

New York, N.Y. (September 17, 2011) – Autism Speaks, the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization, and the Doug Flutie Jr. Foundation for Autism today announced technology applications (“apps”) to be developed to benefit people with autism as part of the “Hacking Autism” initiative.


In his remarks at the World Maker Faire at the New York Hall of Science today, Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer, Personal Systems Group, HP, announced seven new software applications selected to be built by volunteer software developers this October at the HP Hackathon and offered free to the community.


  • Social Stories / Storyboard – This app will allow families and therapists to create social stories on the fly, incorporating templates and examples of this tool which helps a child with ASD to understand a situation and decrease his/her anxiety about an unknown situation, as well as capability to upload and insert custom pictures or photographs. The app will allow the social stories /storyboard to be viewed as a slideshow and/or printed.



  • Calendar / Time Management - This app will provide a highly customizable calendar that allows a user to insert their own pictures or photographs for events and reminders. The app will be built with flexibility to act as a reflective calendar so that an individual with ASD or a family member or therapist can document what they did that day. Functionality will also include visual reminders and audible cues for transitions to different scheduled activities or tasks.



  • Medical / Progress Journal – This app will provide a consolidated platform for parents, teachers, therapists and other providers to track behaviors, diet and episodes using an upload to the cloud to provide the child’s full team with access. Entries can be made to log breakthroughs and other advancements, record therapy sessions and exercises done at home



  • Communication – Using a board of symbols and icons, non-verbal individual and those with sensory overload will be able to communicate using this app.



  • Safety Skills – Basic safety skills related to basic skills of daily living including crossing the street, riding a bike, water safety in the home and in recreational settings, traffic and fire safety will be taught though visual modeling and social stories



  • Bullying – With this app, an individual with autism can alert their teacher, school and parents if they experience a bullying incident and will provide examples of how to deal with bullying through social stories.



  • AAC / Communication / F.A.C.E. – This app is based on the concept is that a child or adult using this system can learn the motor plan or motor sequence for each vocabulary word. It is similar to the way our fingers have learned the motor plan for a QWERTY keyboard when we type. When a specific icon sequence is “touched” it always reaches that vocabulary word. Once the word is learned, it is forever more associated with that sequence of touches. Research has found a user doesn’t need to visually understand the icons, but can in fact learn the word based on the sequence and how it is taught.


Hacking Autism” was launched in June 2011 to seek new ideas for technology applications beneficial to people with autism. “Hacking Autism” crowd sourced ideas for applications from all across the autism community, including families and practitioners.As demonstrated by the above concepts, the “Hacking Autism” initiative sought technology-based ideas to open up learning, communication and social possibilities.

The Hacking Autism Advisory Committee, composed ofleading technology and autism experts, selected these leading applications from more than 250 submissions received in just two months. “Not only have we seen innovations in technology rapidly advance to provide solutions to improve daily life for individuals with autism,” stated Autism Speaks Vice President for Scientific Affairs Andy Shih, Ph.D., “we have seen the tremendous effects of these technologies on language, academic skills, social skills and executive functioning in children with autism.”

Two live web chats, which engaged 846 participants, helped shape the selection process and gave additional input to the Advisory Board on the needs and objectives of the community.  “The input we received from the community, both suggesting application concepts and participating in the live chats to tell us what’s important to them, is a tremendous contribution to accelerate designer and innovator creative thinking,” added Simon Wallace, Ph.D., Autism Speaks director of scientific development Europe.

“We encourage developers to join us at the Hackathon in October to help develop technology solutions for the challenges people with autism face every day,” said Phil McKinney, vice president and chief technology officer, Personal Systems Group, HP.

“We’re excited to see these concepts extended by the greater autism community," said Doug Flutie, co-founder of the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism. “‘It’s not often that a mom or dad, or a teacher who works with a child with autism, gets to tell a software designer what type of tools they need to enhance their loved one’s life. We feel that this type of collaboration has the ability to really improve the learning and communication experience for people on the autism spectrum.”

The Hacking Autism Advisory Committee is composed of leading technology and autism experts, including McKinney; David Canora, principal technology specialist, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, and chairman, Quest Inc.; Chris Mertens, vice president, Healthcare, Personal Systems Group, HP; Autism Speaks Vice President of Scientific Affairs Andy Shih, Ph.D.; Simon Wallace, Ph.D., Autism Speaks director of scientific development Europe; Peter Bell, Autism Speaks executive vice president for programs and services; renowned advocate and author John Elder Robison; Jim St. Leger, Technology Marketing Manager, Intel; and certified speech and language pathologist and advance clinician Kate Grandbois, M.S., CCC-SLP, Spaulding Outpatient Center for Children.

About Autism
Autism is a complex neurobiological disorder that inhibits a person’s ability to communicate and develop social relationships, and is often accompanied by behavioral challenges. Autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed in one in 110 children in the United States, and one in 70 boys. The prevalence of autism has increased 600 percent in the past two decades. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called autism a national public health crisis whose cause and cure remain unknown.

About Autism Speaks
Autism Speaks is the world’s largest autism science and advocacy organization. Since its inception in 2005, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides, committing over $160 million to research and developing innovative new resources for families. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its Light It Up Blue initiative. Also, Autism Speaks’ award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received over $272 million in donated media. Autism Speaks’ family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100 Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit and a community grant program. Autism Speaks has played a critical role in securing federal legislation to advance the government’s response to autism, and has successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in 27 states thus far, with bills pending in an additional 12 states. Each year Walk Now for Autism Speaks events are held in more than 80 cities across North America. To learn more about Autism Speaks, please visit

About The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism:
The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, Inc. was established in 1998 by Doug Flutie and his wife, Laurie, in honor of their 19 year old son, Doug, Jr. who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three. The Flutie Foundation’s mission is to support families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorder. The Foundation is committed to increasing awareness of the challenges of living with autism and helping families find resources to help address those challenges. We provide individuals with autism and their families an opportunity to improve their quality of life by funding educational, therapeutic, recreational and advocacy programs. For more information on The Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism, please contact Jamie Giller at the Ebben Zall Group at (781) 449-3244, or visit