Jul 20, 2017
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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 most.

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 sentences.

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.

Minimum requirements
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
64000-color 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 unattended.

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 guidelines:

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 actions.

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 step.

If the child can repeat (echo) words but does not have pragmatic language, the program will:
Teach him that pictures and objects have a corresponding sound that can be spoken.
Teach him to recognize an object among a collection when the name of this object is spoken. (receptive labeling)
Teach him to correctly pronounce the words (verbal imitation) and associate the picture with the written and spoken word.
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.  

What prerequisite 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 repeat them.

Does the 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 "bicycle" underneath.
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 words?
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, utensils... etc.
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 20
COLORS: Blue, yellow, red, green, orange, purple, and brown.
SHAPES: Rectangle, Square, Oval, Star, Heart, Circle, and Triangle.
ACTIONS: Over 70 pictures and drawing illustrating action verbs.
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?
The rewards for receptive drills are both visual and musical. Typically a 10 to 14 seconds musical strip is played while animation is displayed on screen.

What file 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 drill.

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 flower3 respectively).