Specialized software being developed by a local startup seeks to advance the care and education of children with autism.
ABA Access is a St. John’s-based IT company that is developing specialized interactive software for the online delivery of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.
Its goal is to offer parents of autistic children the tools to continue with therapy under the supervision of a senior therapist when their child’s regular therapist is unavailable.
This interactive digital health solution allows children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to receive Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy without physical interaction with a therapist and to better co-ordinate patient data between therapists.
“There is a lot of effort being put into addressing autism. It is my goal to make Newfoundland and Labrador the nexus, the centre hub of autism research and have work come to us here, Mark Gauci, president and CEO of ABA Access said”
“I have seen great work, a lot of hard work, going in to helping children,” he added.
With the addition of his software, other children will have access to therapy because a child’s growth comes through that process. He said once the information has been inputted and progress is checked by a senior therapist, the child will move to the next therapist and this could be impacted by such issues as the ferry not running to Bell Island or bad weather keeping a therapist from visiting a child in Trepassey.
“Through the software, this therapy can be monitored from an office setting and children can be educated as fast as possible from this easy and quick access.”
He said if a therapist is not available, a parent can step in and follow the program listed online and temporarily continue the critical progress of the child until a regular therapist can come back into the fold.
When his son was diagnosed with autism in 2010, Gauci was just starting undergraduate studies in computer sciences.
The process he learned through his 20 years in the military, Gauci, had time to observe the therapy his son was receiving to help with his autism in addition to being a full-time student.
“I saw a lot of great work being done, but all of the record-keeping was being done offline. I saw things could be improved through technology, augmented to make care better and records more streamlined,” he said.
Because the records around an autism patient were paper based, it was difficult to share information on anything a therapist might need to help with treatments. In order to get that information, the therapist had to visit the respective home and sift through a vast amount of paperwork to get the answer required.
He said finding a therapist wasn’t hard, but hanging on to a therapist was.
“It is not so bad here in St. John’s, but once you get outside the overpass, things change.”
Gauci said he has had a six-year journey in flushing out issues and solutions as he set out to make software that will benefit the treatment of all people with autism.
So in 2016, he decided to develop software that will allow all the information derived from each therapy session to be inputted into an electronic database. That way the therapist could revisit his notes, or in fact, a therapist sitting in another office could follow the individual case by case and formulate a treatment plan.
The overall goal is to eliminate paper-based records, give parents access to therapists and eliminate geographic boundaries for people who need assistance.
“Stage 1, when it is done, will make life easier for people working in that space. It will be one-stop shopping for therapists,’’ Gauci said. He says Stage 1 is now in the final stages of completion and should be done in about six months.
“Once all the notes are entered, it will allow the therapist to spend more time on therapy and with the patient. It will also cut down on travel cost for everyone involved.”
The Autism Society of Newfoundland has written ABA Access a letter of support. Scott Crocker, chief executive officer, Autism Society, Newfoundland Labrador has also been a huge supporter of the project.
In addition, Gauci made a presentation to Eastern Health who he says is showing great interest in the software.
Through the Genesis Centre at Memorial University, Gauci availed of the Evolution program (twice) to help with his project. The Genesis Centre is the innovation hub for technology-based ventures with high-growth potential connecting entrepreneurs with marketing, finance, expert mentorship, office space and management resources, along all stages of development to help them succeed.
It is one of the top-ranked incubators in Canada.
Through several of the Genesis programs, Gauci received help from the Entrepreneurship Training Program and Memorial’s Genesis Centre.