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Students launch company aimed at helping special needs children

By Jeri Davis

Five local teenagers have launched a new company that aims to help parents of children with special needs stay on top of therapy during the pandemic.

Priyanka Senthil, Isabella He, Andrew Kim, Anshul Gupta and Arnav Gurudatt are the cofounders of AUesome, which is currently providing free at-home therapy kits that use the principles of applied behavioral analysis (ABA)—a type of therapy they said  can improve social, communication and learning skills through positive reinforcement—to parents here in northern Nevada and around the country.

The teens all have experience working with children with special needs as volunteers at non-profit organizations like Northern Nevada RAVE and Friends of Children with Special Needs. 

An AUesome kit. Image: Priyanka Senthil

The at-home therapy kits they’ve devised are customizable and focus on motor skills, communication skills and sensory skills. The kits are complemented by an AUesome app with learning activities for kids and a way to help parents track their children’s progress. The exercises in the app can also be accessed offline—giving families the flexibility to continue therapy anytime, anywhere. Online videos demonstrate use of the kits.

The idea was to create a product that would help supplement ABA therapy and provide parents—especially those who may not be able to afford the services of an in-home therapist—with the tools to keep special needs children learning and developing. The teens designed their product with input from therapists, non-profit organizations and experts from universities like Duke, Stanford, Harvard, Brown and the University of Nevada, Reno.

Some of the activities in their kits focus on helping children develop social and emotional intelligence by teaching them common facial expressions and emotional responses to everyday scenarios. Other activities focus on intricate movements like lacing, pinching and building that can be applied to everyday tasks such as tying shoelaces, using pencils and holding utensils.

The kits and activities target a range of difficulty levels to challenge children of different ages and functional levels, with the goal that they’ll be a useful tool that can progress alongside the children who use them.

The AUesome team is currently giving away all kits for free—funded from donations the company has raised through GoFundMe—in an effort to help families through the unprecedented COVID pandemic.

According to AUesome’s founders, theirs is the only product of which they’re aware that provides families with all of the three key components of successful at-home therapy: parent-implemented intervention, where parents continuously work with their child at home; personalization and hands-on training.

In a press release, the teens shared some of the positive feedback they’ve received from parents who’ve used the kits to aid in their special needs children’s learning.

Krupa Shyam, a parent with a child with autism, said, “I really liked the product. I found the clothespin activity, emotion flashcards and shapes to be very innovative and helpful because they bring in a lot of communication with the kids. The videos were great, and I would definitely be willing to try another kit.”

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