Gaido was one of 72 projects chosen from about 800 applicants to participate in Zinc Shower 2016, an annual event held at the College of Architects of Madrid (COAM), where lectures, workshops, networking, and creative entrepreneurship shows were held by great professionals.
Meet Gaido, A Learning Platform For People With Autism
In Zinc Shower 2016, Gaido had a stand which unveiled their project to attendees and investors: This is a software platform designed to help everyday people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It is designed to stimulate development and learning, and supports the daily work of family and professionals.
From LearningLovers.org we were lucky to have an interview with Carlos Delgado, co-creator of Gaido with Juan Andrés Padilla and Juan Delgado. Here is what we’ve learned:
The Origin Of The Idea
“We consider ourselves a group of social entrepreneurs; we were two at the beginning, my partner and I. We were always anxious to build something, to form something that would really be useful to society. Our idea was to do the project taking into account that we are training engineers and putting the project at the service of society to solve a social problem; to meet a social need.
”As a result, we got the idea of Gaido in 2013 from the wife of one of our partners; she is a psychologist, autism specialist. She told us that when she was using tools, applications, or websites on tablets and mobile phones, there was a need for applications that really fit the needs of each user, each child. She saw that there were many solutions, but they were not all adapted to what she needed. Therefore, she had to look for different solutions for each child.
”Then the idea of a visual agenda came; a tool that is already used a lot by therapists and relatives of children with autism. We started to develop a simpler visual agenda, as a test, to see how it went, and from there we realized that this could not only be a simple application, but something much more powerful, much larger, to meet other needs and reach more people.
”That is why Gaido emerged as a platform. The difference is that, instead of being a simple tablet or mobile application, it becomes a set of tools or modules (‘visual tools’ we like to call it), which cover all the support needs we have noticed have arisen from people with autism. The first module of this group that we have developed has been the visual agenda, because it was the first one that we were asking for.”
The Strengths Of The Platform
“Within the platform, one of the premises that we consider is that it is as adaptable as possible to the needs of people with autism, but always without forgetting the support of family members and professionals. They are figures that we take into account. Therefore, in the platform we have 2 very different parts:
- The user zone, which is where the boy or girl with autism moves and uses the different tools.
- The tutor zone, which is where all users are managed. Being a professional, you can manage several users in the platform, and it is from this profile from where you configure the different modules that children have at their disposal.
”Another very important part within the area of the tutor is the synchronization that exists between all of them. People with autism often need a lot of people around them: They usually have relatives (the father, the mother, the grandparent if they spend a lot of time with him, or the grandmother); also the teacher of their school or of their special education is usually there; there is also the therapist in the afternoons; many of them also need a speech therapy… They need many professionals and family members by their side. Somehow, we managed to coordinate all of them through the platform through a functionality that is working quite well and allows you to link all the tutors you want in a single user. We call ‘tutor’ both the family and the professional. The person who created this user, the responsible tutor, can link to all the professionals or all the relatives that he / she sees necessary. With that, what is achieved is that the coordination among them is as appropriate as possible and the development of the child is done as quickly as possible. From there, we get all tutors who are coordinated to use all the tools that are offered.”
“In relation to the agenda, a wall board with Velcro was used, where the pictograms were placed, which are very simple text images that describe actions or objects so that the children can identify them quickly (because people with autism are highly visual people). They plasticize these pictograms, they put Velcro, and with that they form the everyday agenda.
”They need to have everything very neat; they need the anticipation of tasks. The agenda helps them know what they have to do at all times, because when they don’t know what is the next thing they have to do or something that is not programmed, they suffer from anxiety and stress. To avoid this, the visual agenda is used.
”The good thing is that it is digital. Apart from that, it is much more attractive for them, because they love new technologies and they are attracted to them: This is what it means to be able to endow it with other types of functionalities:
- Timers can be assigned to a task, because in therapy those are used a lot to mark the time that lasts for each one of the tasks.
- Standards of conduct can be added to the tasks.
- The world of tasks requires anticipation: For example, if we are going to go out to the park today, you know that you cannot hit the ball, etc. There are norms of conduct that tutors have already marked. In this way, the child has the rules of conduct very visually and knows what task is associated.
- We also have tools such as assessment, positive reinforcement… You can add a number of functionalities that make the visual agenda much more powerful for daily use.”
Evolution Of The Platform
“We have already been using the beta test for about three months. We have about 300 families and professionals who have tested the platform and are using it in its beta version. We have just launched the first version, which is already working, and it is open with fully operational solutions.
”One of our premises within the platform that is very important is the fact that we always want the platform to evolve. This is very positive, because professionals are very supportive to us.
”We advise that all children with ASD have the support, either from a family member or a professional who is guiding them and making their development process as appropriate as possible. When they start therapy, they usually start it from a very young age. Evolution: The progress they make is brutal.
”If a child with autism has professional support, they evolve much faster than if they don’t have this support. The tools that are used throughout this development are the same tools, but are evolving with the child. For example, the visual agenda begins with a very detailed everyday agenda, with information on what they have to do – ‘When waking up, the first thing you have to do is washing, dressing, having breakfast, washing your teeth, etc.’. These are very marked steps.
”As he/she evolves, the tasks are reduced, removing things that are already understood that have to be done without the visual support of the agenda. The task is becoming from a daily and much more detailed agenda into a weekly agenda, which instead of marking the day visually, it marks the week. The week will be columned and the most important tasks will be identified.
”We want the platform to evolve; this means that if you are initially working with the daily agenda, then you would automatically go to work with weekly agendas. This same philosophy is to be achieved with all the other modules.”
“Another module that we have in mind and that we have begun to develop is the module of the communicators. Often, people with autism have speech problems and are sometimes nonverbal people. This means they need the support of tools like the communicator.
”Then there is the activities module, which is also used a lot, with activities that are directed specifically to them and are very visual and help them in therapy in their day to day work”.
“We would like to turn Gaido into a platform that is always alive, that does not stop developing, adding functionalities and adapting to new therapies, new methodologies that are emerging, and of course, to build many more modules. It is also important to have a group of people behind a platform, which in a more direct way solves specific issues, and is even listening to new needs that users are having; that allows continuous improvement.
”We take great care in listening to the people who are using the platform, whether they are professionals or family, and to see how we can ensure that those needs they have get translated into the creation and development of the platform to make it as useful as possible for them. It’s the only way we think we can make the platform really useful.”
“Internationalization is a basic thing for a platform like this, since there are around 77 million people with autism in the world and we believe it is a platform powerful enough to be able to help and bet on each person and the people around them; and that’s a fact.
”We soon want to have the English translation. For the moment, the launch has been made here in Spain. We already know that there are people for example in Argentina who use Gaido; we have received messages from there. The first phase of internationalization will be about this area: We have a very powerful contact in Argentina and we want to start there and then reach the maximum number of people.
”Gaido is a tool that thanks to the technologies and the internet allows us to reach the maximum number of people. The platform is accessible from the website. It has a part that is in the cloud and works directly from the web, and exactly the same we have in the application version.
”We have made an application because we believe it is much easier to work with children from a tablet with an application directly, without having to access the browser. Also, the advantage of using an application is the ability to have the entire platform active and running without the need for a connection.
”For example, there are weekends that we go to the countryside, to the beach, to certain places from where, for whatever reason, we cannot connect; we cannot stop serving these people, because they will continue to need the monthly agenda just like all these tools. So, with the application, what we get is to work with them without any connection problems, and when we return home or to the office, to connect with Wi-Fi, everything we’ve done during that time away is synchronized with the platform in the cloud. So I already have all the information available to the rest of the tutors, and everything that the other tutors have done during that time I also have it synchronized with the tablet. From the computer it is easier to set up the agendas or the pictograms, and you can work with them through the tablet.”
In Search Of Investors
“The project really works, the platform already has its users: Since we opened the subscriptions, people are starting to sign up. We understand that it is working; what happens is that with the support of an investor we will grow much faster and be able to develop more modules and more utilities so that Gaido reaches more people. The financial support also helps the whole communication campaign to get the platform known and much more effective.
”We have always wanted to differentiate ourselves by the fact that Gaido is a living platform. There is a continuous evolution of development; it does not stop, it grows, because it has really an incredible potential, and always being aware of the needs of the user is something very important.
”The model we have is subscriptions, because we have seen that it is the only way in which a project like this can be viable. The fact is that there is a team of people behind the platform working continuously to improve it and to create new modules: The only way to maintain it is through subscriptions.”