As the group of language Acquisition Ladies, our moonshot question focused on how we could improve the current therapeutic methods to improve prosody in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in order to make it more effective and accessible to all. This was to enhance language acquisition, especially the spoken part, in children with ASD.

The majority of the feedback was supportive of this moonshot. Many groups said they agreed with the idea, and expressed interest in how exactly we want to improve on the therapy model. Two groups suggested we focus more on early detection of prosodic deficits, or take a more neurological approach.

Based on the support, we decided to stick with the concept of prosody and Autism Spectrum Disorder. However, we will also integrate the suggestions about early detection into our solutions.

The following are solutions we brainstormed upon hearing our feedback:

  1. Interactive AI program that teaches young children prosody - responds to the child’s responses directly and would be designed as a game that children would enjoy. This could combine music, dance, articulation therapy. There could be different levels that children can go up to based on progress. This would be a good solution because it doesn’t have to go through the public education system, but could be implemented into public education. It can be an app that would be easily accessible to however needs/wants to use it. The main face of the app would be a cartoon character (which is a lot less intimidating for children than a therapist), and children would be able to make conversation with it to practice articulation, intonation, tone, stress etc.
  2. Training therapists to implement both music therapy methods and non-literal speech therapy. This likely exists already, and supply of teachers may be too little compared to the amount of children that need therapy
  3. Since therapy is not affordable for many families, integrating prosody and speech sound education into the general K-12 schooling curriculum to provide a more equal chance for all children. Would be difficult to actually effectively change the schooling curriculum, especially when schools are underfunded and teachers are underpaid.
  4. Infants can detect prosodic cues in infant directed speech as young as 18 months old. A possible method of early detection could be a test where you measure an infant’s brain responses in response to prosodic cues. There could be a possible correlation between lack of detection of prosody very early on and ASD diagnosis later in life.
  5. A pre-preschool program for children before they join actual school which focuses on only speech sounds. Based on a child’s performance in this program, they could be suited with a classroom that is most tailored to their needs. Would give all students more of an equal chance to learn at their own pace while maintaining in person school structure, which is beneficial for social and emotional development. Pre-school learning focuses mainly on word learning, while the learning of speech sounds and other areas of language like syntax and pronunciation are very important for language acquisition.
  6. Possible solution could be to train parents to do the inclusive speech therapy for their children. Most parents have to work and may not have time to repeated implement this form of therapy with their children. Tracking progress could become nuanced; there may not be a standard.
  7. CRISPR or gene-editing before a child is born. Though this would involve major ethical issues. Also, technology has not been fully developed to implement on fetuses. Not really sure if the exact genes for prosody have been determined.
  8. Neuralink or brain implant chip that allows communication with an infant’s brain when it still has a high degree of plasticity to implement speech therapy in that way. Again, involves a lot of ethical issues, and technology is not this developed at the moment.

STRONGEST SOLUTIONS AT THE MOMENT:

  • Solution 1: Interactive AI Program
  • Solution 5: The Pre-Pre-School Program