Apps May Help Children Affected by Severe, Non-Verbal Autism to Communicate

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind.--()--Stephen and Diane Beaudoin have tried for years to fully communicate with their son, David, 11, who is diagnosed with severe, non-verbal autism. They credit SPEAK all!, an iPad application, with the enriched communication they now have with him.

"David is building real sentences that we weren't getting no matter how many times we mimicked the behavior we wanted from him," Stephen Beaudoin said. "SPEAK all! helped him complete more meaningful, interesting sentences, which led to more meaningful, interesting communication."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that as many as 1 in 50 children in the United States has some form of autism.

Developed at Purdue University, SPEAK all! helps children communicate by using photos and symbols that represent what they wish to say and helps them construct sentences. The app speaks the word or sentence, which allows a child to communicate a thought and reinforces the word to help the child learn to talk.

SPEAK all! resulted from research by Oliver Wendt, a Purdue assistant professor of speech, language and hearing sciences, and was developed by Purdue's Engineering Projects in Community Service program with support from the Purdue Innovation and Commercialization Center.

"There are varying degrees of autism severity and the most severe degree is the non-verbal where the child or young adult does not have natural speech to meet their daily communication needs," Wendt said. "Most children with severe autism learn to communicate by using a simple communication book where they pull pictures of what they want, such as a picture of an apple, and then they exchange the photo for what they want."

Wendt and his team use an iPad's interface for the same process. SPEAK all! allows the child to choose images to form a sentence. It can be customized for the child's interests, and can use the parent's or primary caregiver's voice.

Children using the app have experienced a physiological change in their neurological connections.

"We've found through neuroimaging that the brain activity moves to a more normal level during SPEAK all! intervention," Wendt said.

A version of SPEAK all! is available through the iTunes store and a premium version will be released this summer. A progressive version called SPEAK more! is being designed for children who have advanced beyond simple sentence structures.

Wendt's research is sponsored by the Indiana Clinical and Translational Science Institute, a project involving Purdue, Indiana University and the University of Notre Dame, and is funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Organization for Autism Research, and the Purdue University Center for Families.

For information about developing and commercializing SPEAK all! and SPEAK more!, contact Purdue Office of Technology Commercialization at 765-588-3470,

A video about SPEAK all! is available at


Purdue Research Foundation
Steve Martin, 765-588-3342

Release Summary

Children affected by severe, non-verbal autism could learn to communicate better through using an iPad app called SPEAK all! developed by Oliver Wendt, a Purdue University researcher.


Purdue Research Foundation
Steve Martin, 765-588-3342