The CompuThera CD-ROM offers a seven-step gradual
discrete approach for teaching reading. It has been designed for children having
trouble learning by observation alone. It is aimed at visual learners and
children whom traditional classic educational methods cannot motivate. Children
with Autism fit this category; that is why CompuThera will benefit them
Targeting both receptive and expressive cognitive
skills, the CompuThera treatment plan builds on mastered items to progress
through the program using simple drills, eventually leading to reading simple
The ability to read often triggers in autistic
children the conceptual leap leading in breakthrough in communication. The
CD-ROM comes with full instructions and a "Seven-step to reading for Visual
learners and children with Autism " Therapists Manual. Users also
receive online technical support.
Intel based pentium processor 150MHz
with 32Mb RAM or better
Sound card (microphone is needed only if you wish to
record new sound files)
Double-speed CD-ROM drive or faster
SVGA video card
Windows 95 / 98 / NT4.0 / 2000 / or XP
Whom is this software
program targeted to: parents or children?
In few words, the
goal and mission of CompuThera can be described as follows. Short for
"Computer Assisted Therapy for teaching cognitive skills to visual
learners" CompuThera has been
designed chiefly as a therapist aid for teaching cognitive skills (both
receptively and expressively) to children with autism and visual learners. It is
meant as a complement of any type of ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) therapy and
consists of 52 drills to be performed one-on-one with a therapist, much as in an
ABA or Lovaas type program. It takes advantage of the fascination most children
with autism have towards computers and uses this natural inclination as a
motivator and reinforcer in the learning process. The computer supplements but
does not replace the teacher. First and foremost it is a teacher's tool. Drills
that a therapist would normally present on the table using flash cards are
performed here on the computer. The teacher, parent or therapist is required to
be by the student's side for recording his score in all expressive drills. Since
in expressive drills the child is asked to verbally label a picture, spell a
word or read a sentence, the teacher's judgement in scoring the child is of
foremost importance. The child alone however can do receptive drills, provided
he can appropriately handle a mouse or touch-screen device and does not use it
for perseveration (or "stimming"). Some expressive drills such as Verbal
Imitation or Spelling have an "Autorun" mode that can also be done by the child
At what age can
a child start using this program?
More than talking about appropriate "age" for using
CompuThera one should rather consider a child's ability or level
in cognitive skills (including language and reading). Here are a few
If the child has language and can already read simple sentences using
usual words and understand the meaning of the sentences, the program will
probably not benefit him/her other than providing a stimulating media for
generalization of acquired skills.
If the child has some language but cannot read, the program can be of a
benefit as it will teach the association of words to pictures, the spelling of
words and the recognition of words by sight.
If the child can rote-read but does not understand what he reads (which
can be the case for some children with autism), the program will help give a
meaning to words by associating them with symbols, pictures of objects or
If the child is able to sight read single words but does not link them
into sentences, the program will teach him/her this last
If the child can repeat (echo) words but does not
have pragmatic language, the program will:
a) Teach him that
pictures and objects have a corresponding sound that can be
b) Teach him to recognize an
object among a collection when the name of this object is spoken. (receptive
c) Teach him to correctly pronounce the words (verbal
imitation) and associate the picture with the written and spoken
d) Decompose the
written word into its components or letters (spelling).
Recognize the word from its
written representation alone (sight-reading).
If the child is non verbal altogether, meaning he has no spoken
language, he can learn to associate pictures with the sound of the words
through the "matching" drill and learn to recognize a picture from its spoken
label (receptive labeling). If and when he begins to echo words, he can then
progress further into the program.
By 3 years of age (or even younger depending on
his/her ability) a child can begin using the program, but there is no upper
limit of age for which a child can benefit from it.
skills must a child have to use the software?
To begin using the
software, it is good if the child has already some ABA practice (Lovaas type
home therapy), he needs to be table ready and able to have a sustained attention
span of about one minute.
The first drill, aimed at matching identical
pictures, is mostly for the child to get familiarized with the computer mouse.
If this is too difficult for the child, CompuThera is also
compatible with a TouchWindow device where he can directly point to pictures on
the screen. At the beginning, the child does not need to be verbal, since the
first two drills are receptive in nature. From the first drill (verbal
imitation) and above, the child must begin to at least echo words and be able to
student match the word to the picture?
At the simplest
level, the student matches identical pictures. Upon successful matching, the
program "says" the name of the picture out loud.
At the next level (receptive
labels), the student is asked to recognize a picture among several on the screen
with the verbal request "touch..."
At the next (3rd) level (verbal imitation)
the student is asked to echo the labeling of the picture. For example "Say
bicycle" with the picture of the bicycle showing on the screen and the caption
At the fourth level (spelling) the student is asked to
spell the word (letter by letter).
The next level (sight-reading) does not
display the picture anymore, but only the written caption, although the picture
can be flashed on the screen as a prompt or hint.
The program moves
discretely from picture only (matching and receptive label) to word only
(sight-reading) moving to a given level only when the previous one has been
mastered for any given word.
A forthcoming version will explicitely add a
drill for matching a word to a picture.
What words are
taught? Is there a vocabulary list? How many
In its current form CompuThera comes preloaded
with about 350 words, each with its own picture and sound file, to which you can
add your own. These words are grouped in 9 categories:
LABELS: Over one hundred
tangible familiar objects, food, clothes, vehicles, furnitures, animals,
PEOPLE: Occupations such as Doctor, Policeman, Clown, and
Firefighter. You can add your own pictures of family members, friends, teachers,
and siblings... etc.
LETTERS: A through Z
NUMBERS: 1 through
COLORS: Blue, yellow, red, green, orange, purple, and
SHAPES: Rectangle, Square, Oval, Star, Heart, Circle, and
ACTIONS: Over 70 pictures and drawing illustrating
EXTRA: Any word that
does not fit in the above categories (such as prepositions, articles, adverbs,
and adjectives) for which a picture is not available.
Can I use my own pictures?
You can add
your own pictures to help generalization and record your own sound files for new
words. There is no limit to the number of words that can be taught. However, the
purpose of the software is not to teach an extensive vocabulary, but rather to
bring the student to the conceptual leap that written and spoken words can
represent pictures, symbols and concepts which in turn can be linked into
sentences to express more complex structure of thought.
What types of
reward are given?
rewards for receptive drills are both visual and musical. Typically a 10 to 14
seconds musical strip is played while animation is displayed on
formats are accepted for the images and the sounds?
Images should be in Bitmap (.bmp) format. This should not be a problem,
since most drawing softwares can export in the Bitmap format. Version 2.0 (to be
ready by May 25, 2001) will support JPEG format as well. Sound files should be
in wave (.wav) format.
How exactly do I add
items in the vocabulary?
Two ways are available,
depending whether you have a picture for the item.
If you do have a picture for the item, for example if it is tangible or
a verb that can be represented by an image, you simply need to drop the
picture (using windows explorer) into the appropriate folder, under the
location where CompuThera was first installed. For example if
you have installed the software in the folder "c:\CompuThera" and need
to add a picture for "house" in the "labels" category, just drop the picture
into the folder "c:\CompuThera\labels". You will also need a sound file
for that item. If you have a microphone plugged into the sound card of your
computer, using the sound recorder program can do this. Just save the sound
file in the same folder as the picture, giving it the same name as the image
file, but with a .wav extension (for example: HOUSE.WAV). The next step is to
access the "Treatment Plan and Configuration" dialog box by pressing the
"Organize" button at the bottom left of the main screen. The default password
to access this feature is "computhera" (without the quotes). Under the
appropriate category of the treatment plan, the picture you just added should
appear with the name of the bitmap file (for example HOUSE.BMP). You can label
the picture as you wish by pressing the "Modify Item" button and changing the
caption to the item name (for example "house") and save it by pressing the
"Save" button. In order to enable this new item for any given drill, just
check the box for that item in the column for the chosen
If you do not have a picture for an item to be added to the vocabulary,
you can still add it by selecting the "Extra" category in the "Treatment Plan
and Configuration" dialog box (accessed via the "Organize" button on the main
screen). Press the "Add Item" button (located at the bottom left of the dialog
box). All you need then is to record a sound file for this new item, just in
the above example. [Note: The Extra category already contains words that
cannot easily be described with a picture, such as preposition (to, at, in,
for...) articles (the, an, a...) pronouns (this, whom, she...) or adverbs.]
Important: Items in the Extra category should only be enabled for the
following drills: Verbal Imitation, Spelling, Sight-Reading. (Since they
require a picture, other drills such as receptive or expressive labeling
should not be used with the Extra category) A word can be added in any of the
existing categories. For the purpose of generalization, one can even have
several pictures for a word, for example "flower1.bmp", "flower2.bmp" and
"flower3.bmp" can all be assiociated with the word "flower" (each bitmap still
needs to have its own associated sound file: flower1.wav, flower2.wav and