Guiding Technologies officially launched its GAINS software system at an ABA conference in California this past weekend. Presently, both executives and educators have been able to test the software. They say it could have a tangible impact on how children on the autism spectrum learn and develop.
The Philadelphia edtech startup was born out of the research of founder and Temple University professor John Nosek. Its GAINS software is a three-part system that serves as a virtual assistant for educators using the Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) methods. ABA is a method for helping autistic students make educational progress, increase communication skills and join mainstream classrooms.
ABA involves completing tasks with students in a specific order, monitoring their progress, giving positive feedback, recording minute details about their abilities and then using that data to assess and alter a students’ therapy. Typically, all of this process is done with a pencil and paper. Thus, entering data can take hours and human error, as in anything, can play a part. However, the GAINS system moves all of that work into the digital space.
Instead of following a paper sheet and pausing to mark down a student’s progress or challenging behavior along the way, the instructor uses a smartphone or tablet application that allows them to record data on tasks and behavior with a simple tap. In ABA therapy, an instructor also has to count how far a student had progressed in a set of tasks so that when they hit difficulty, they can return to the appropriate starting point. The GAINS system instead uses bone conduction headphones, worn along the back of the neck and rested on the temples to channel sound vibrations to the inner ear, to guide the instructor through the process and onto the next step automatically. Because the headphones don’t block the ear canal, instructors can still hear what’s going on around them.
This key change in the product that came about through its beta testing at the Bancroft school in South Jersey.
The private educational facility serves students who fall on the autism spectrum or deal with intellectual or developmental disabilities. The school has gone through three cycles of testing the GAINS software. It has provided feedback on things like the difficulty of using and sharing in-ear bluetooth headphones. Its feedback spurred the company to reduce the amount of screens an instructor has to go through to get from signing on to recording data from six to one.
Bancroft’s classroom saw an impact from GAINS software. One particular student was exhibiting difficult behavior. In turn, his progress was being inhibited. Information about his tasks and behavior started being tracked in the GAINS system. The data showed that his attention and processing rate would drop after a specific length of time. The system also includes a web-based platform supervisors use to manage and analyze students’ data. So, getting this information quickly helped them adapt a plan tailored to his specific needs. And results followed.
Accessing granular data and using it to fit each students particular needs is the key advantage to the product. While the product makes it easier to record data and reduces human error, paper and pencil still has the advantage of being cheap, easy and flexible. Getting and using that data after the fact is the pain point GAINS tries to solve.