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Calls to Action

ITA Funded Courses 2009-2010

MAS. 771: Autism Theory & Technology
Masachusetts Institute of Technology
Spring 2009

CSC2526: Autism & Technology
University of Toronto
Fall 2009

ENGR 599: Innovative Technology for Autism Spectrum Disorders
University of Southern California
Spring 2010




MAS. 771: Autism Theory & Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Media Laboratory

Spring 2009, Mondays 10:00-12:00pm
Orange & Green Conference Room, E15-468

Rosalind Picard, Sc.D. (
Cynthia Breazeal, Sc.D. (
Matthew Goodwin, Ph.D. (

Course website:

This course will lay a foundation in autism theory and autism technology that significantly leverages and expands MIT's ability to pioneer new technology for helping under-served populations. Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) encompass a broad set of conditions applying to a growing number of people worldwide, which the CDC identified in 2007 as involving 1 in 150 elementary school-age children. A person receives a diagnosis of ASD when they have a combination of atypical responses in categories relating to social interaction, communication, and restrictive and repetitive behaviors.

Many people on the autism spectrum face significant challenges with daily living, relationship building and maintenance, emotion awareness and regulation, and both verbal and nonverbal communication. Many also have problems with motor coordination and fine motor control to produce speech or certain sequences of movements, and some have a mysterious condition where their ability to move completely disappears and returns. Many also have problems with sleep, sensory regulation, attention, and executive function abilities. Students who take this class will learn about all of these challenges, many of which also affect people who do not have an autism diagnosis, and will receive a state-of-the-art overview of technologies being developed to address such challenges.

This class will involve presentations from experts in autism and in autism technologies, and provide opportunities to interact with individuals on the autism spectrum, including those who support them. The course will also explore the converging challenges and goals of autism research and new technologies - including networked, wearable, and robotic - that have increasingly human-like social, emotional, and communication skills. We will advance ways technology can be used for helping both researchers and people on the autism spectrum to gain greater understanding of the condition through systematic measurement of affective, physiological, and behavior data. We will also work together to develop technologies that increase opportunities for communication and expression. Our goals are to enable people with disabilities to gain the tools and help they need, while also helping researchers, families, and their support network to develop a better understanding of what autism is.


CSC2526: Autism & Technology
Department of Computer Science
University of Toronto
Lectures: Mondays, 2 - 4 PM, BA B026
Fall 2009

Khai Nhut Truong, Ph.D.

Office: BA 5262
Phone: +1 (416) 978-4761
Fax: +1 (416) 978-4765

Course URL:

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is believed to affect 1 in 150 people. Despite the impact that this disorder has on our society, functional treatment and early diagnosis of autism remains a challenge and tools and innovative products are needed that can help the many domains e.g., cognitive, physical and social that are affected in autism. In this course, students will not only learn the relevant background theories regarding diagnosis and treatment but also will tie these theories to the efficacy and relative importance of a host of technologies currently in use in autism research and practice. Students will be provided with opportunities to meet important researchers and practitioners who use technologies to improve the lives of people with autism both around the Toronto area and elsewhere. Additionally, students will work in inter-disciplinary teams to develop a prototype that solves an autism-related need, either for an individual with autism or those who are part of an assistance or education network (parents, teachers, therapists, and aides).

Although the course has an emphasis on technology, there will be a distinct human-centered approach to understanding the opportunities and implications of technological assistance to meet this community's needs. The course will be taught in a seminar format and will combine discussion and critical analysis of assigned readings, guest lectures, as well as practical experience. Students from a variety of different disciplines, including psychology, occupational and speech therapy, as well as computer scientists, designers and engineers will be encouraged to work together and develop productive ideas in relation to the literature in this cross-disciplinary and innovative area of study.

Reading & discussion topics covered in this course will include:

  • Diagnosis and treatment of ASD
  • Etiology of autism: urban legend, genetics, neuroscience, environmental factors
  • Challenges faced by people with autism, together with families, teachers (classrooms) clinicians and caregivers
  • Current use of technological developments in a variety of domains of impairment (limitations, efficacy, what is needed?)


ENGR 599: Innovative Technology for Autism Spectrum Disorders
University of Southern California
Viterbi School of Engineering and
Division of Occupational Science & Occupational Therapy
Spring 2010

Olga Solomon, Ph.D. (

Course URL:

Technology has become an integral part of everyday life for people of all ages in the United States and in many countries around the world. Increasingly, children grow up and develop in a world where technology mediates and organizes how they communicate, learn and play. For individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), their families and the professionals who work with them, the ubiquitous presence of technology offers a unique opportunity to marshal new resources for participation and engagement in everyday life.

This course is a USC's contribution to the Innovative Technology for Autism Initiative launched by the Autism Speaks Foundation to promote development of new technologies for those living with autism and their families. This course builds upon similar courses offered at other top universities such as MIT, Georgia Tech and Northwestern. Innovative Technology for Autism is an interdisciplinary field that promotes creativity and innovation and integrates fields such as engineering, occupational science, neuroscience, psychology and anthropology. The course is designed to be of interest to doctoral students in Electrical Engineering, and in Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy.

The goal of the course is to provide students with understanding of Autism Spectrum Disorders as a foundation for future research, development of technologies for ASD and their use in clinical practice. Bringing together doctoral students in Electrical Engineering and OS/OT will provide the experience of interdisciplinary collaboration between these two audiences. The course will be taught in a seminar format and will combine discussion and critical analysis of assigned readings, guest lectures, practical experience and grant writing.

The specific objectives of the course are:

  • Become familiar with main theories of ASD.
  • Gain appreciation of how ASD impact personal experience and family life.
  • Understand basic issues underlying the use of technology for ASD.
  • Become familiar with literature on innovative technology for ASD.
  • Gain an understanding of the capabilities and limitations of technology for ASD.
  • Experience collaboration with colleagues outside of your discipline (EEGR and OS/OT fields).
  • Practice implementation of your original ideas in designing an innovative technology for ASD.
  • Gain the ability to formulate your ideas in a grant proposal.