New Toy Developed for Autistic Children

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  • July 1, 2011
  • by Christine
  • Auti, Helen Andreae, Peter Andreae, social skills, Victoria University,
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Developing friendship and playing with other children are just some of the things that a child with autism is having difficulty with. Although they would like to join other children and play with them, they do not seem to have the necessary skills needed to encourage friendship with other children. They cannot understand social cues and they may have difficulty understanding concepts that would promote a positive playing atmosphere.

Helen Andreae, a student at Victoria University in New Zealand, understands these social difficulties that autistic children experience and as a result, focused her efforts on developing a toy that can help the children in this regard. And on the final year of her Honors degree, she created an industrial design paper on a toy under the supervision of Tim Miller and Edgar Rodriguez Ramirez and in consultation with a child psychologist who works with autistic children and a professor whose research specialty is teaching autistic children. Dr. Peter Andreae, on the other hand, was responsible for the toy’s computer programming.

The toy, called Auti, is a responsive and mechanized toy which is made of possum fur. Auti’s fluffiness makes it very attractive to the children and makes them want hug it and play with it all the time. At the moment, the toy is still currently a prototype but based on the response of the small group which have been lucky enough to test drive the toy, the toy seems to be very promising.

Among the skills that the toy teaches are touching, speaking and collaboration skills. It responds to the child’s negative behavior by shutting down but it quickly responds to the child’s slightest positive behavior. For example, when the child hits the toy or screams at the toy, it will immediately shut down and not respond to the behavior that the child just exhibited. On the other hand, the toy quickly responds when the child talks gently or when he strokes the toy. One good thing about this toy is that the sensor can be adjusted to respond accordingly to the child’s individual characteristics.

Auti is an interactive toy developed especially for autistic children. It is designed to develop positive play behaviours, making it easier for them to interact with other children, as well as teaching them broader social skills.

Auti addresses speaking, touching, and collaborating skills. Each area is developed through an evolving sequence of interactions and responses.

Auti shuts down in response to negative behaviour such as hitting or screaming, but quickly responds to the slightest positive interaction. Each sensor can be adjusted to respond appropriately to each child’s individual characteristics, making Auti immediately compatible with the child.

Suitable from 6 months.

Auti designed and built by Helen Andreae.
Narrated by Charlie Bleakley.
Featuring Veronica Wicks.
Shot, and Edited by Greg Jennings

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