A Race to Help and an Autism App

by: | Oct 7, 2014

As the father of an autistic son, I am always on the lookout for tools to help my son navigate through everyday tasks that we take for granted. Simple things like remembering to shower, brush his teeth, and get dressed in the morning can be forgotten in a mere fraction of a second as he sees or hears something that is far more interesting. The Urban Dictionary even has a term for it: a “shiny thing,” which means any fascinating distraction.

Neurotypical – dare I say normal – human beings use something called executive functions to perform activities such as planning, organizing, strategizing, paying attention to and remembering details, and managing time and space.  Most autistic kids, while very smart in their own right, lack this basic ability.

In tandem with the search for tools and solutions, most parents of autistics also seek out resources and service providers to help their children with the transition to adulthood. One of the best known of these locally is Autistry Studios of Corte Madera, Calif., a pre-vocational program that “promotes the growth of independence.”

Dan Swearingen and Janet Lawson, the founders of Autistry Studios, established the program in their own backyard — originally for the benefit of their own autistic son. The program has grown over the years and now serves up to 50 students in a 10,000 square foot warehouse.

The InStride Autism App

Naturally, I was excited when I found out that Autistry Studios reached out to our team here at ArcTouch to get help with its InStride autism app.  The app for iPhone and iPad will provide people with autism a set of visual and audio reminders for day-to-day tasks, along with the ability to check off pre-defined tasks as they complete them.  It will also enable parents and caregivers the ability to monitor progress throughout the day. I immediately jumped into the project (something that is not normally on my job description) to lend my unique perspective.

ArcTouch Car for Autistry Faire Includes GoPro Camera

Autistry Faire - App for AutismWe had just started the development work on InStride when Janet asked if ArcTouch would consider being a sponsor for the upcoming annual Autistry Faire, in San Rafael, Calif.(about 20 miles north of San Francisco), the studio’s single largest fundraising event. One of the highlights of the event is a radio-controlled car race along a recycled cardboard track. When I found out we could sponsor one of the cars, we enthusiastically signed up.

Our ArcTouch car is being built and tested even as I write this. Adam Fingerman, one of the ArcTouch founders, thought it would be cool to mount a GoPro camera to the top of the car to capture the race from the view of the cars.

Here’s some early footage of the testing:

If you are interested in sponsoring or attending the event in person, you can find details at the Autistry Faire event page here. The event promises fun for the whole family, including an auction, carnival games, and of course, the remote control car races.

And if you have friends or family who has an autistic child, I encourage you to watch for the launch of the InStride autism app. We’ll keep you posted here on the ArcTouch blog.