Scientifically Testing Gamified Therapy for Children with Autism on our 25k users


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MITA is a gamified therapy for children with autism that focusses on training the brain using Pivotal Response Therapy (PRT), one of the best supported therapies for children with Autism.

We are raising funds to help us scientifically analyse the potential benefits of the game to children with autism in three out of four of the critical areas of development highlighted by PRT. This will mean we can give parents and carers accurate information on the expected benefits of using the game based on data rather than theory.  

Over 25k people have already downloaded our app and we have invited those to complete questionnaires on their progress, therefore our dataset is very big. This project is raising funds to cover the costs of analysing the questionnaires and getting the data published so that the scientific community can benefit and build on the knowledge of gamification as therapy which has a growing body of interest, particularly in Autism and ADHD.

Gamification as therapy has key benefits as it focusses on training the brain without pharmaceuticals which can have very negative side effects.

Backers of this campaign will be invited to Boston to meet the scientists at a seminar or dinner. They can receive a report of the findings written for non scientists so parents and carers can make informed decisions about how to use the MITA app based on our findings.  However, most importantly they will be supporting this important work that can help hundreds of thousands of people with autism in an affordable way.

See rewards on the right hand side for pledge levels and read on for more information on the work being crowdfunded. 

Background

Autism affects people of any race or economic status. About 1 in 68 children born today will be identified with autism spectrum disorder according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

With no genetic test to predict the disease, the main focus is to assist children in reaching their full potential. Unfortunately, approximately half of children diagnosed with autism are failed by the current system  and end up with a condition known as low-functioning autism.  The ImagiRation team and I, Dr. Andrey Vyshedskiy  are trying to change this statistic.

One of the main reasons these children become low-functioning is a lack of development in their language processing skills. Research has shown that early childhood is the most critical time for developing language. Missing this key period may result in a permanent inability for a person to understand complex language including syntax, spatial prepositions, and verb tenses. Our team at ImagiRation has developed Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism (MITA), an application for children with autism that allows parents to administer early-intervention therapy as early as possible and in the comfort of their own home.

We also recently did a TED-Ed video explaining a bit more about how the child brain develops. See below:

Over the past year, we have succeeded in getting MITA into the hands of over 25,000 kids with autism to use as a supplement to their regular therapy. MITA is designed for early childhood and intended for long-term, daily use. Its bright, interactive exercises are based on therapeutic techniques that have been shown to be effective for individuals with autism.

Mrs. Amber Bonasse started administering MITA to her son, who was diagnosed with autism before he turned 3.  “I have tried many things for my son, even before the diagnosis to no avail… One of the most profound changes came after he started the MITA program… I was able to definitively see a major difference in him and his ability to problem solve and process,” she writes.

MITA in the news:

SUPPORT THE BIGGEST AUTISM RESEARCH TRIAL IN HISTORY

Our goal with this campaign is to gain funding to study and evaluate the extensive data we’ve collected on children who have been working with MITA. Every three months, parent of MITA users are asked to complete a diagnostic questionnaire. This diagnostic information, along with anonymous data from the application, is used to measure the effectiveness of the MITA therapy. We have now accumulated 12 months’ worth of data and require funding to analyze and publish our first findings. We ask you to help us in this process – every donation will be put towards us analysing the data we have collected, in order to enable us to provide parents with accurate information on the benefits of MITA based on scientific evidence.

Working with a child with autism requires hard work and patience. We want to prove to current and future families that sticking to the MITA therapy will help their kids make remarkable strides in language acquisition along with a wide range of other skills. Through our observations so far the data we have reviewed suggests that MITA is helping children who use the app regularly develop faster.

THE SCIENCE BEHIND MITA

MITA is based on Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), one of the best-supported therapies for children diagnosed with ASD. The exercises target three of four critical areas of development supported by PRT:  response to multiple cues, motivation, and self-management.

A child’s ability to notice and to respond to multiple visual cues presented simultaneously is the most critical. This ability is typically impaired in individuals with autism, leading to what is commonly described as “stimulus overselectivity,” or “tunnel vision.” Improving the capacity to respond to multiple cues has been shown to reduce stimulus overselectivity, which in turn leads to vast improvements in general learning.

A peer-reviewed article describing MITA: http://goo.gl/lyHw95

MITA GAMES

MITA includes nine adaptive games that develop a child’s mental-integration ability as well as train their language functions. The visual exercises follow a systematic approach for developing a child’s ability to notice multiple characteristics of an object. MITA starts with simple exercises that teach a child to attend to only one feature, such as size or color. Over time, the exercises get more difficult and require the child to attend to two features simultaneously, such as both color and size. In order to solve these puzzles, a child must learn how to hold two pieces of information in their mind (both the size and the color of an object) and make a decision based on the combination of these features. Once a child has practiced attending to two features, the program moves on to puzzles that require attending to three features, such as color, size and shape, and then eventually to puzzles that involve attending to an ever-increasing number of characteristics.

The verbal exercises (labelled the Language Game) in MITA also train your child’s mental integration ability. However, these puzzles offer a more conventional, verbal approach to facilitating language acquisition, starting with simple vocabulary, and progressing towards higher forms of language (such as adjectives, prepositions, and syntax).

As a child progresses through MITA’s systematic exercises, he or she is developing the ability to simultaneously attend to a greater number of features, reducing the propensity towards tunnel vision, and thus developing an essential component of language. The ability to mentally build an image based on a combination of multiple features is absolutely necessary for understanding syntax, spatial prepositions and verb tenses.

MITA is available in the Apple Store, Google Play, and Amazon App Store. It is absolutely free and we want to keep it free.

TEAM

Dr. Andrey Vyshedskiy

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Andrey Vyshedskiy, Ph.D., is the Founder and CEO of ImagiRation LLC. Dr. Vyshedskiy was trained in neuroscience, biomedical engineering, and astrophysics. He received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Boston University, and has conducted research in neuroscience, cardiopulmonary acoustics, and optical vibrometry. He has co-founded several successful companies, received numerous awards from the NSF, the NIH, and the DOD, and directed the development of several FDA approved medical devices. He has been teaching Human Physiology, Neuroscience, and Neurobiology of Consciousness to BU students for over two decades. He has also periodically taught Tufts Medical School students. He has authored over 100 scientific publications, book chapters, and conference presentations. His work has appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, Thorax, Chest, the Journal of Neuroscience and other leading scientific journals. Dr. Vyshedskiy currently lives in Boston with his wife and two children.

Jonah Elgart

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Jonah Elgart serves as Art Director for ImagiRation LLC. Mr. Elgart received a Bachelors of Science from MIT. He has designed, animated, illustrated, and programmed educational software for over ten years. In his work, he fuses a quirky child-like sense of humor with a conceptual interest in learning. The end product is innovative software that uses intuitive affordances to make learning natural and engaging. Mr. Elgart’s work straddles research and commercial projects, and he has worked with clients including Harvard University’s EdX platform, Columbia University School of Education, PBS, and Pearson. He has also launched several children’s apps under his own brands.

Rita Dunn

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Rita Dunn, M.A., is the Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of ImagiRation LLC. Mrs. Dunn has received a Master of Arts degree in Math Education from Harvard University. She has been working for over a decade as an educator devoted to honing the cognitive skills of both neurotypical and developmentally-delayed kids. Her years of experience informed her that proper, early instruction utilizing building blocks, educational manipulatives, puzzles and games can have a profound effect on the development of a child. She also saw, firsthand, that there is a shortage of materials that are appropriately designed for use with individuals with developmental disorders, the population that has the most to benefit from proper developmental training. For Mrs. Dunn, the ImagiRation project is a culmination of over a decade of education, research and practical experience that has led her to conclude that brain training can and will have a profound effect on kids with developmental disorders such as ASD.

Lisa Lokshina

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Lisa Lokshina is Co-founder and Director of User Experience of ImagiRation LLC.  Mrs. Lokshina has received a Masters degree in Interaction Design from New York University and a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from Boston University. Mrs. Lokshina brings to ImagiRation extensive experience in digital design and user research as well as an outstanding journalistic talent.

Alex Faisman

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Alexander Faisman, is the Co-founder and Chief Software Architect of ImagiRation. Mr. Faisman has over 20 years of experience in software development in companies such as  Moody’s, Morgan Stanley, Venado Technologies, and PRI Automation. Mr. Faisman brings to ImagiRation essential software experience and profound dedication to the education of children.

In addition to this wonderful team, we are working with a group of award-winning artists and developers alongside experienced therapists and researchers.

For more information, please visit www.imagiration.com or contact us at imagiration@gmail.com.

Endorsements

Monica R. Meyer, MD
Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician

I am very excited to learn about your research project to provide parents of young children with autism with a tool for enhancing their children’s development.

As a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, I frequently make the diagnosis of autism. Parents often want to know what they can do to support their child – in additions to arranging for various therapies and special instruction. As you know, it is so important to begin treatment as early as possible. An initiative that can enable parents to make a significant difference in the lives of their children with autism will be doubly rewarding.

I enthusiastically offer my support to your research project.

Amber Bonasse
Parent of child with autism

My son Alexander who turned 3 in September, was recently diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. He went through all the testing; in school, with diagnosticians and with therapist and though I knew he was a very bright boy, his scores on were very low. Once I got the diagnosis, I started looking for answers or anything that might help my son. Fortunately, I found the Mental Imagery therapy for Autism (MITA) program.

One of the most challenging problems I encounter when trying treatments for my son is keeping his attention. Most programs he only uses for a moment and then quickly moves on, refusing to try the program again. With MITA, he stays interested for a long time. Most of the time, I’m the one trying to get him to take a break from it! Aside from offering a multitude of changing pictures and puzzles, they quite thoughtfully also change the format of the puzzles; from orientation of the puzzles to the types of puzzles being solved which helps keep it interesting. Giving the instant praise after solving a puzzle as well as the big “Play Time” reward is a huge help as well. He jumps up out of his chair and is so excited every time he solves a puzzle and makes it very special.

What’s also wonderful about this program, is being able to see the change in him. To be able to see him think about and solve the puzzles, something he wasn’t able to do a few months ago is astonishing. Puzzles and other cognitive activities were a very big area of opportunity for him, but within the first week I was able to definitively see a major difference in him and his ability to problem solve and process.

I have tried many things for my son, even before the diagnosis to no avail. But I have no doubt that one of the most profound changes came after he started the MITA program and I’m so thankful that I found it. The MITA App is giving my son a beginning and a chance and for that, I can’t thank ImagiRation Inc enough.

Kimberly Vanaman 
Behavioural TherapistMemorial-Spaulding Elementary School

Thank you for the opportunity to meet with you and your team to experience and discuss your ImagiRation Program in regards to its benefits to children with Autism as well as the neuro-typical population. I was very impressed with the superior caliber of the scientific research and thoughtfulness behind the program. The high quality of the visuals and the intellectual investment was clearly apparent in this program’s creation and design.  It was a lively, informative and exciting exchange of information and ideas and I would very much like to see your research and development continue.

I have the perspective of 15 years experience at the elementary public education level, frequently working with children challenged by Autism. I recognized the appeal, educational value and facile access that your program offers to the population within my scope.  The “no-explanation-needed” design of your program carries particular interest, as the students I work with frequently find understanding of instructions extremely challenging.

After our meeting, I offered your program to several of my students and was pleased to see them able to navigate its operations easily and move through the levels with interest and enthusiasm. I observed that the increase in difficulty was subtle and gradual and therefore generally avoided frustration. The reinforcement portion of the program when a puzzle was completed was very suitable and particularly appealing to the learning challenged group I instruct.

Congratulations on your success thus far and best wishes for your continued development of your ImagiRation Program.

Igor Rozenwald
Medical Doctor

As a medical doctor and father of a son diagnosed with autism, I am eager to support this research. ImagiRation has already proven itself to be an effective research and development group for digital interventions for kids with ASD. My son, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3, has shown much success with ImagiRation’s MITA application, which he has been using for over a year. MITA has provided him with thousands of puzzle-like exercises tailored to his ability level. I was excited to see his interest and continuous engagement with the program and believe it is an effective component to his ongoing treatment.

I offer my full support on this exciting and important project.

Helen Tager-­‐Flusberg, Ph.D.
Professor, Psychological & Brain Sciences, Boston University
Professor, Anatomy & Neurobiology and Pediatrics, Boston University School of Medicine Joint Appointment, Sargent College, Boston University.

This is to confirm my support for your research project developing an early intervention iPad app for children with autism spectrum disorder. As you know, it is very important to commence therapy as early as possible. An app that helps parents begin early intervention may have significant potential to improve outcomes.

My research interests in language acquisition in children with autism spectrum disorder spans over three decades. As a director of Boston University Center for Autism Research Excellence I am currently involved in studies of infants at risk for ASD, verbal children and adolescents with ASD and minimally verbal children with ASD (in collaboration with colleagues at BU, MIT, Harvard Medical School, Boston Children’s Hospital, MGH, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Northeastern). Furthermore, I have been very interested in developing an app for older minimally verbal children with autism, but lack the technical skills and time! I am pleased to support your efforts in providing guidance on the language component of MITA that will serve preverbal children with ASD as part of the more comprehensive curriculum you are developing.

 I have seen ImagiRation’s existing app and was impressed by its thoughtful design, attractive artwork and sleek performance. I look forward to collaborating with the ImagiRation team on this exciting and very important project.

Eric London, Medical Doctor
Director of the Autism Treatment Research Lab
NYS Institute for Basic Research in Developmental Disabilities

I am writing this letter in support of the MITA application -an early intervention application of children with ASD. This application is addressing many of the most important deficits in our current ability to treat ASD. Simple to use and available interventions to the very young is extremely important. Too often affected children must wait for lengthy evaluations and often nonexistent intervention programs. This program address that issue through the use of technology and parent training to use it. Their methods are taken from the well proven applied behavior analysis methods and so can be used as an adjunct to ongoing treatments. The focus on addressing stimulus over- selectivity is very important in that the “endophentypic” deficits in autism need to be taught to in order to build a foundation for the learning of the more obvious skills which need to be taught. I also want to emphasize the value of the rigorous methodologic testing of teaching tools such as this as children with ASD are being taught often with untested and too often poorly conceived “treatments“.

Elizabeth Kalmanov, MA, CCC-SLP

I would like to express my support of the ImagiRation application MITA, which is designed to improve the visual and language skills of young children as well as children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.  I have had an opportunity to use this application, in conjunction with the language therapy, with preschool children who were diagnosed with moderate to severe language delays.  The application served both as therapy and a reward and was well received by the students.  At the end of one year, I have been able to track not only improvements in the mean length of utterance of the users, but also in their fine motor ability.  The application is entertaining, intuitive, accessible to educators, therapists and parents, and is rooted in extensive and well-documented research.  Data tracking is automatic and kept for each user.  I highly recommend this software to both parents and professionals.

William J. McIlvane, Ph.D.
Director, University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS)
Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center
Professor of Psychiatry & Pediatrics, UMMS

The letter is intended to convey my interest in and support for the efforts of the Imagiration development group. After reviewing your materials and talking with you in our recent meeting, I concluded that your group is doing meritorious work that is aligned well with recent directions of my research group at the University of Massachusetts Medical School’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver Center.

I was both surprised and impressed by the investment of intellectual and personnel resources represented in your materials. I think that they have merit not only for the purposes for which you developed them but also for purposes of advancing research on aspects of attention, memory, and executive functioning. Indeed, I think that one could develop an NIH-competitive project around them, addressing specifically the degree to which experience with your materials would lead to more general improvements in managing complex information-processing tasks.

Good luck with your work and efforts to secure support for continuation of your interesting development program.

Select your pledge amount

£

CONTINUE
  • 6 Backers

    We really appreciate your support! We will email you a report of our findings once the project is completed.

  • 6 Backers

    Thank you e-postcard: We really appreciate your support and will thank you by sending a personal e-postcard from the whole team at ImagiRation + the above.

  • 10 Backers

    Signed scientific-journal article with published research: For lovers of science, we will mail you the scientific journal article with the published MITA findings, signed by the research team Dr. Vyshedskiy, Rita Dunn, and Jonah Elgart.

  • 9 Backers
    Limit of 100 — 91 remaining

    Seminar tickets and signed book: Dr. Vyshedskiy will be hosting an exciting presentation on the research team’s findings at Boston University. You will be one of the first people to know and understand the results of the MITA study, how it works and how it changes the brain function. This will be arranged in coordination with the publication of the study. Dates are to be confirmed, but most likely the event will take place in early 2017. If there is high demand for additional seminars in other locations, we will do our best to accommodate them

  • 4 Backers
    Limit of 50 — 46 remaining

    Seminar tickets and entry to drinks reception: After Dr. Vyshedskiy’s presentation of the results, he and the research team will be hosting a drinks reception. This is a great opportunity to talk to the ImagiRation team and be a part of the critical conversation on autism research.

  • Backers
    Limit of 10 — 10 remaining

    Dinner with the scientists in Boston: The truly curious and inquisitive can join the research team (bring a +1!) Dr. Vyshedskiy, Rita Dunn and Jonah Elgart in Boston. This will be a brilliant opportunity to talk in depth with leading scientists about autism research. In addition, you will receive signed published articles, along with a signed copy of Dr. Vyshedskiy's book "On the Origin of the Human Mind."

  • Backers
    Limit of 1 — 1 remaining

    Fund the project: If you have been touched by autism and are in a position to provide the funding for this whole project, you can either pledge here or email us directly at hello@crowd.science

2 Comments

  1. Raul

    Is the article on the 20£ tier the same as the book of the 50£ tier?

    I can not attend the conference, but I’ll be happy to have the most extended research information. If there will be a book, I’d like it.

    So, if they are the same, I’ll be in for the 20£ tier.
    If they are not the same, please add an intermediate tier for it if possible.

    Thanks.

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Select your pledge amount

£

CONTINUE
  • 6 Backers

    We really appreciate your support! We will email you a report of our findings once the project is completed.

  • 6 Backers

    Thank you e-postcard: We really appreciate your support and will thank you by sending a personal e-postcard from the whole team at ImagiRation + the above.

  • 10 Backers

    Signed scientific-journal article with published research: For lovers of science, we will mail you the scientific journal article with the published MITA findings, signed by the research team Dr. Vyshedskiy, Rita Dunn, and Jonah Elgart.

  • 9 Backers
    Limit of 100 — 91 remaining

    Seminar tickets and signed book: Dr. Vyshedskiy will be hosting an exciting presentation on the research team’s findings at Boston University. You will be one of the first people to know and understand the results of the MITA study, how it works and how it changes the brain function. This will be arranged in coordination with the publication of the study. Dates are to be confirmed, but most likely the event will take place in early 2017. If there is high demand for additional seminars in other locations, we will do our best to accommodate them

  • 4 Backers
    Limit of 50 — 46 remaining

    Seminar tickets and entry to drinks reception: After Dr. Vyshedskiy’s presentation of the results, he and the research team will be hosting a drinks reception. This is a great opportunity to talk to the ImagiRation team and be a part of the critical conversation on autism research.

  • Backers
    Limit of 10 — 10 remaining

    Dinner with the scientists in Boston: The truly curious and inquisitive can join the research team (bring a +1!) Dr. Vyshedskiy, Rita Dunn and Jonah Elgart in Boston. This will be a brilliant opportunity to talk in depth with leading scientists about autism research. In addition, you will receive signed published articles, along with a signed copy of Dr. Vyshedskiy's book "On the Origin of the Human Mind."

  • Backers
    Limit of 1 — 1 remaining

    Fund the project: If you have been touched by autism and are in a position to provide the funding for this whole project, you can either pledge here or email us directly at hello@crowd.science