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The CASPAN (Centro de Ann Sullivan) Foundation de Panama is at the heart of an initiative to provide social skills training, developmentally appropriate education standards, and life skills to children with severe learning disabilities. The center is in the heart of Panama City, and with a total of 105 students, CASPAN has its hands full. 56% of the students are on the Autism Spectrum and most of these kids are severely disabled; many are even nonverbal. Communication between students and teachers is a real challenge on a day-to-day basis. This is why Jordi Albo-Canals PhD, a visiting professor at Tufts Center for Engineering Education and Outreach, decided to include AutismSees founder, Danielle Feerst, and himself in a grant for a workshop to be held this semester at the CASPAN Foundation. If the kids are not able to communicate directly with the teachers, perhaps they will communicate with a robot … ??

Jordi is the Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Robotics from La Salle – Ramon Llull University, Barcelona (Spain), and Robotics Director from La Salle, Almere (Netherlands):

“For the past 10 years, I have worked with children who have severe brain trauma and Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) to develop socially engaging robotic technology to serve as means for teaching communication and social skills. Danielle’s app, iPresentWell, not only adds value to this population and our current technology, but was shown to be an effective and exciting tool during our recent research trip to Panama. The children loved the idea of practicing with the app for a presentation, and even nonverbal children used the app to watch themselves in the camera, many of them reflecting upon their images and demonstrating self-awareness. This is remarkable for this population.”

An incredible journey into the heart of Central America – this trip provided AutismSees a new opportunity to conceptualize different versions of iPresentWell for Spanish-speaking, lower-functioning teens with Autism. The classroom with older students, who were learning how to bag and sell fruit, used the iPresentWell app to answer presentation questions about their class workshop with LEGO robotics in Spanish. Most of the students were nonverbal, but we had 3 students on the Spectrum who talked and engaged with the app – smiling and watching videos of their presentations. Skills like this could provide these students a means for vocational success and life support when they leave the center.

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