• July 10, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Overheard Underheard

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Stay-at-home dad Norman Silva of Miramar, Fla., has created an interactive, speech-enabled reading application that is quickly gaining recognition by special education teachers, specifically those who work with autistic children.

This undertaking, The Mayan Quest Activity Book, enhances children's reading skills by taking them on an adventure with Leo, a young artist looking for his lost art supplies in the Mexican jungle.

Designed for the iPad, the application is made primarily for early readers aged three to five. The story can be enjoyed in three ways:

  • Help me read—children can listen to the narration while tapping and listening to each word in any order while the text is underlined;
  • Read to me—the words are underlined as the story is read; and
  • I want to read—the child reads without any assistance or narration from the application.

Silva says this interactive application assists children with hand-eye coordination, listening skills, visual perceptual skills, and tracking; helps increase attention span and improves reading comprehension; and helps children identify shapes and colors. These are all concepts used in therapies for autistic children.

In fact, the application is recommended by Autism Speaks, the nation's largest autism science and advocacy organization.

"The Mayan Quest app is an ideal interactive learning tool," Silva says. "Children get to interact with Leo while improving their reading and fine-motor coordination skills."

Children can tap objects, slide them, and move the iPad to make things happen on the screen. They can make monkeys swing, parrots squawk, and frogs croak.

Each illustrated page offers interactive questions or puzzles and creates an enhanced reading experience. A subtle jungle soundtrack places the young reader alongside Leo in the jungle and among Mayan ruins. Objects in the illustrations are related to the answers to the activity questions.

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