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A Collaborative Project on Communications in Autism: Uncovering Communication Potential in Minimally-Verbal ASD

This project brings together leaders in three complementary areas: (1) MGH Lurie Center for Autism and Martinos Center’s unique expertise in recruitment, clinical evaluation and brain imaging of the ASD population, (2) the MIT Media Lab’s innovative real-time wearable sensing and interpretation of human neuro-physiology, and (3) MIT Lincoln Laboratory’s advanced speech and neuromotor computational modeling and analysis methods and mobile off-body multi-modal fine-motor platforms. This grant will support a sustaining pilot grant to allow these collaborating groups to generate preliminary data, prepare IRB materials, test protocols, and otherwise plan the details of their collaboration for a larger project on communications in autism. It is our hope that data generated during the course of this grant will strengthen the development of a project on bridging the gap between the near non-existent technology in helping individuals who are minimally verbal with autism spectrum disorder (mv-ASD) find their “own voice” and the dramatic gains made in modern communication technology.  The researchers’ plan is that by richly characterizing the vocal, facial, and behavioral communication limitations in the individual with mv-ASD and by rapidly bringing technology to naturalistic environments, they will develop translational breakthroughs leading to a first-of-its-kind Communication Technologies Enhancement Center (CTEC) where the individual with mv-ASD can obtain a personalized device and methodology to promote his or her communication.