Monash computer technology a finalist in “The Australian” Innovation Awards

Computer technology designed to assist children with developmental disabilities, created by Monash researchers, has been chosen as a finalist in the annual The Australian Innovation Challenge awards, to be announced Nov. 28.

Monash University
Professor Kim Cornish and PhD student Hannah Kirk (Photo credit: Monash University)

The world first tablet technology—designed to assist children with developmental disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorders and Down syndrome, stay focused is aimed at facilitating learning and inclusion within the school environment. The technology, called the TALI Attention Training Program, is a finalist in the Educations and Community Services category of the awards. The research has been funded by an ARC Linkage grant to Monash University, Grey Innovation and Torus Games.

Professor Kim Cornish, Director of the Monash Institute of Cognitive and Clinical Neurosciences, said that the awards recognised how technologies can revolutionise the ways all children are taught. “TALI is a real game changer as it assists children with developmental disabilities who often get left behind in traditional education settings,” she said.

The gaming technology, developed with DreamWorks contractor Torus Games and Australian Technology Commercialisation firm, Grey Innovation, has been tested in a randomised control trial aimed at determining whether using the games for 20 minutes five days a week over a five-week period led to improved attention and focus.

It is estimated that around three per cent of Australian children have a developmental disability, where there is a reduction in their ability to concentrate and stay focused on a task, switch attention between tasks, inhibit impulsive responding and mentally hold and use information. Disruption to these processes can lead to difficulties in learning and academic performance, as well as difficulties developing social skills.

Miss Hannah Kirk, who designed the training program and evaluated its efficacy during her PhD, which was supervised by Professor Cornish, said that there are currently very few interventions that aim to improve core attention skills in children with developmental disability.

“Although there is a deeper understanding of the vital role attention plays in shaping the broader cognitive landscape, rarely is this new knowledge applied to enhance problems in attention and learning.  The current program does just that, by taking a striking deficit namely inattention and attempting to reduce these difficulties via theoretically driven training activities,” she said.

The new gaming technology developed by Professor Cornish and her team was shown to be effective in promoting improvements in selective attention skills as well as numeracy abilities.  These promising findings have resulted in the program being commercialised by a spinoff company, Tali Health, in an effort to raise the funding needed to extend the trials longitudinally and to more children, according to lead researcher Professor Cornish.


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