Assistive technology and autism research

Providing early intervention support tools for children with autism.


There's a growing gap between the number of children with autism who require early intervention and the therapy available for them.


Our research into early intervention therapy has produced a learning tool for children living with autism.

Research Partners

  • Autism West
  • Curtin University
  • Deakin University


  • Victorian International Education Award, 2014
  • Geelong SmartNetwork Researcher of the Year Award, 2012
  • Curtin Innovation Award, 2011

We realised the enormous potential for pattern recognition in providing support tools for children with autism.

Early intervention is vital for children with autism to help them make sense of their world. However, intensive early intervention can be difficult to access, and expensive. The TOBY Playpad helps parents to commence early intervention in an affordable way at home.

“My three-year-old was non-verbal (except for ‘no!’) and couldn’t imitate, match or sort. With TOBY I finally had some direction. Now my son can imitate, knows his colours and shapes, and can match. He’s also starting to approximate words. A BIG thank you to the TOBY people! We’re so excited by our son’s progress and thankful to have been on this trial!” Oscar’s Mum


We automated the early intervention process, formulating creative frameworks for automated stimulus presentation, adaption, prompting and reinforcement. From this, we created a portable platform that delivers early intervention therapy to children with autism, using multi-touch interfaces on an iPad. It delivers stimuli of increasing complexity and adapts to a child’s performance over time.

The platform weaves natural environment tasks with iPad tasks, so the learning platform integrates early intervention into the child’s daily life.

We developed this work as an app that can be used as an adaptive early intervention program. It monitors each child’s performance and adjusts lessons accordingly. The app is distributed through iTunes and is being used by children worldwide.

Parent feedback tells us that, thanks to TOBY, children are learning new social, cognitive and sensory skills. Independent clinical trials have demonstrated TOBY users showed significant improvements in critical developmental and functional abilities.

Find out more about TOBY Playpad