Animated Language Learning

Do you have a child that loves Disney? Do you have a child with Autism or a language and learning disability?

About this time last year, I became very interested in learning how Disney can encourage language and communication with children and adults with Autism. After reading the book, Life Animated I decided to try some strategies with a client of mine that is fascinated by old Disney movies. I wrote this article for ASHASphere here and discovered some encouraging results of using Disney during my sessions.

After writing this article, I got in touch with Enda Dodd, the developer of the program Animated Language Learning (ALL). I have been interested in this program since discovering it about a year ago and was excited to learn more about it and where its origin began.

I was impressed with Enda’s knowledge and passion for using ALL to encourage language and communication. I found the program interesting because it incorporates motivating material (Disney Pixar) with a structured language program. For children and adults with Autism who have a passion for Disney, this can be an excellent way to work directly on language skills in a way that is fun and engaging for both the client and clinician. I also think it can be an exciting program for those children who have language or learning disabilities. After trialing the program, I loved ALL because it incorporated stimulating and motivating material with increasingly more difficult questions with repetition embedded in the program to encourage learning and literacy. I also liked how it used both multiple choice questions and then required the user to type in the answer after choosing the correct answer. 

Within this review, I wanted to share some information provided by Enda, the developer of this program. Thank you Enda! 

What inspired you and your wife to create Animated Language Learning?
It came from the boys. While they had no language and were severely dyspraxic, we could see as parents they were processing visual information. They were problem solving in little ways that just told us they were intelligent beyond their language. The challenge was how to communicate with this intelligence – to access them in a way that allowed us to grow them in our world.

When we would go shopping in Target, the boys would always run into the TV section and where did they stop? At the TV with Disney playing. So we could see that animated media, with its visual stimulation was the way to engage them. It was then just a question of putting it all together, and we are so grateful to Disney and Adobe for giving us the tools to create the program and save our boys.

2. Can you explain what the different programs are and how to choose?

Disney has opened up their library to us so we can continue and expand our research into language development. Adobe showed us how to break down complex animation into understandable concepts and enabled our pilot programs to be placed conveniently in the cloud. It’s all about technology catching up with the needs of children like Conor and Eoin the world over. And most importantly, Conor and Eoin are now driving our research and development activities! When families contact us, we personally speak with them. We want to understand their child’s language level, visual processing, overall functioning and interest in animated media. In a great many cases, the children we work with have already demonstrated the ability to respond to visual language systems such as PECS but for whom these systems are now too limited. We match the child’s requirements with the programs we have created, and frequently develop new ones based on these interviews.

Conor and Eoin are brilliant in the development of these programs and work full time in their creation!

3. According to your research, what are the long term benefits for a child with autism when using the program, Animated Language Learning?

As luck would have it Becca, my background is in clinical research and artificial intelligence. My wife, Val is an elementary school teacher and psychologist. So we had the background to pull together a broadly based team which now spans the US and Europe. Its nice to be connected to you now! We currently work with 300 families on the program with children in ages ranging from 3 – 22 years presenting with mild to severe language disorders. A great many also exhibit sensory integration deficits which should be addressed to improve the overall functioning of the child.

As I mentioned, the system has internal measures and data collection, designed to assess concept acquisition and related language, be it in oral or literacy form. However, our primary interest is in the deployment and utilization of the presented language within the child’s eco system. So, in essence the systems primary intent is to address central language disorders and in doing so expand the child’s use of language within their environment.

Where the parent deploys the language system as intended, meaning daily exposure in line with age and developmental factors, and further takes steps to use the language with their child, clear trends in language acquisition and deployment are apparent. Given continued use of this expanding language over time, available data indicates that gains from the system are sustainable.

In many respects, we view the system as a gateway to language, however ultimately language acquisition is experiential and needs to exercised within the child’s ecosystem to be ultimately understood. This is how Conor and Eoin succeeded. So when people ask us what we are doing, my response is simple: we want more Conor and Eoin’s !

no affiliate links in post. I received a free pilot program to trial the program but do not benefit in any financial way in reviewing this product.


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