Interactive avatars are now on the menu to assist therapists and parents of children on the autism spectrum have better therapy sessions. They are delivered via online video call sessions by live animation pioneer Gary Jesch of Carson City, NV.

Jesch introduced his avatar-assistants about five years ago at a National Autism Society conference and has been working to perfect the experiences that benefit children who may have trouble interacting with adults in typical settings.

It seems that his avatars – cartoon fish, puppies, dinosaurs and people – are able to reduce anxiety and so those kiddos can ease into their interventions with less stress and more learning.

“We’ve seen some amazing changes take place in a few weeks,” Jesch says. He’s worked with SLP therapists, ABA specialists, modeling and social stories professionals in clinic and classroom settings in his local area, with consistently positive results.

“I remember reading articles by Dr. Rosalind Picard in the ’90s, about how, one day, an avatar technology would be used to help those on the spectrum. When I managed to make it possible, it began a journey that I will never forget. Seeing how I’ve helped make a difference is so rewarding,” Jesch commented.

Jesch (shown above at the controls) has created “Avatar Adventures,” which are weekly, 25-minute sessions where he connects with a young person and their parent or therapist via a remote conference call from his virtual clinic. On his end, he is controlling one of his animated “Digital Puppets,” and on the other end, a child with autism is observing and interacting as best as he or she can, always under the guidance of another adult, in the family home or office.

Prior to the session, Jesch meets with the parent and the therapist to discuss the child’s situation, goals for intervention and likes/dislikes, so he has a background going into the call. Together, they choose the most appropriate character and plan the session to incorporate additional graphics and elements that will hold the child’s attention.

If the parent wishes, the sessions can be recorded and viewed at a later date. The therapist can also observe them for measurements of change and improvement. They can be counted and measured under the criteria for the method of intervention used, as in the case of an SLP treatment.

Jesch is offering Avatar Adventure sessions for $120 for four 25-minute sessions in a package that includes meetings with the parent and therapist, plus a ScreenRay HDMI device and a webcam (on loan with a $150 deposit – also available for purchase). The ScreenRay device eliminates the need for a computer and speakers and connects directly into the back of a TV or monitor. He is available for questions by contacting him via his website at https://invirtua.com

The Invirtua 3D Digital Puppeteer technology was studied at Brigham Young University, and the results were published in late 2019, by Dr. Ryan Kellems, Special Education Program Coordinator – Counseling Psychology & Special Education, Brigham Young University. It has also been used at the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at the University of Nevada-Reno under Dr.  Debra Vigil.

For more information, contact Jesch via the Contact Us page on this website.

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