Northeastern professor Ralf Schlosser has dedicated his career to breaking down communication barriers faced by minimally verbal autistic children.
When he started working at Northeastern 25 years ago, that meant enlisting the help of expensive, dedicated, specialized and somewhat stigmatizing technology.
More recently, Schlosser has been a leader in employing mainstream mobile technologies such as iPads and animation to allow children with severe communication impairments to do everything from requesting a glass of water to delivering a lecture on a school topic.
“The field has shifted to general consumer-level technologies, like the iPad, smart speakers and smart watches. It helps them communicate better and it’s non-stigmatizing because you and I also might be wearing a watch,” Schlosser says.
“About 30% of autistic children have little or no functional speech and benefit from augmentative and alternative communication strategies and devices. That’s the population I work with,” he says.