|Purdue University assistant professor Oliver Wendt recently received the Autism Society’s “2015 Outstanding Research of the Year” award for two apps he developed to enhance speech and language skills in autistic children.Wendt has more than 20 years of experience working with augmentative and alternative communication interventions for individuals diagnosed with autism, and has researched a vast range of interventions to improve speech and language skills of minimally verbal individuals.
Through his research and work, Wendt developed two augmentative and alternative communication therapy apps, SPEAKall!® and SPEAKmore!®. Both apps were commercialized and taken to market by SPEAK MODalities LLC, a company that found its roots in Purdue’s 2014 Startup Class — and for which Wendt is the co-founder and chief science officer.
SPEAKall!® helps children throughout the autism spectrum communicate by using graphics and symbols, while also enhancing natural speech abilities. Its partner app, SPEAKmore!® focuses on broadening vocabulary and improving generative language. Of nearly 2 million children diagnosed with autism, it’s estimated that almost 66 percent are initially minimally verbal and do not develop sufficient speech and language skills to meet the most basic daily communication needs.
Since launching through iTunes in 2014, SPEAKall!® has been used by more than 12 universities and autism clinics around the world, with almost 30,000 total downloads.
Wendt received the award on July 11 at the Autism Society National Conference in Denver, Colorado. This award, given annually, recognizes individuals or organizations that advance applied research tactics in the autism community - and ultimately better the lives of children and families who are affected by autism.
“I am very honored to be chosen for this prestigious award from the Autism Society,” Wendt said. “Research and development in the field of nonverbal autism serves a critical need for thousands of children and families and receiving this award during this conference enables us to reach out to the larger autism community.”
“We are proud to recognize Dr. Wendt for his work with augmentative and alternative communication interventions and efforts to enhance language skills of children on the autism spectrum,” said Scott Badesch, Autism Society president and CEO. “The 2015 Autism Society Award winners represent the best in volunteerism, philanthropy, advocacy, research and education our community has to offer.”
In 2014, SPEAK MODalities won the International GAIN-TEN Business Pitch challenge, an award given to startups that show promise of effecting change on both sides of the Atlantic. More recently, SPEAK MODalities received the 2015 Best of Education Tech Award from the TechPoint Initiative.
Watch this video to see how SPEAK MODalities technology changes the lives of children and families. Visit Purdue’s Engineering Projects in Community Service(EPICS) to learn more about how Purdue students and faculty are translating their work into real-world application and improving the communities in which they serve.
About the Autism Society
The Autism Society is a renowned source of information and advocacy that offers a nationwide support network for autism communities. Through its 50 years of knowledge, experience and growth, the Autism Society aims to provide a trustworthy, caring and respectful team of people who improve lives of individuals on the autism spectrum.
About SPEAK MODalities LLC
SPEAK MODalities formed in 2014 and obtained exclusive licensing to SPEAKall!® and SPEAKmore!® technologies from the Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization. SPEAKall!® was first released for commercial use in 2014. The mission of SPEAK MODalities is to expand the reach of all subsequent SPEAKall!® products to further enable children with significant communication disorders to develop stronger language and speech skills.