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Innovative software to assist people with autism


Open Book adapts documents into a format that is easier for those with autism spectrum disorders to understand.
The software can replace complex words with simpler alternatives or even appropriate images, and can transform long sentences into a sequence of shorter and easier to understand sentences. It can also be personalised in response to user needs. Clinical evaluation of the tool involving nearly 300 participants proved its efficacy.
Open Book is a result of the FIRST (Flexible Interactive Reading Support Tool) project, a large, transnational research study that brought together nine partners from across Europe, from Belgium, Bulgaria, Spain and the UK.
Dr Constantin Orasan, a member of the University of Wolverhampton’s Computational Linguistics Research Group, said: “Open Book will empower people with autism to read documents with confidence and autonomy. As a result, their social inclusion will be increased as they gain better access to educational, vocational, cultural and social opportunities.
“Open Book may also be helpful for people who have aphasia, learning difficulties and people who are learning a foreign language.”
The software is applicable to a broad range of documents including school textbooks, children’s books and literature. Users can access images to illustrate difficult terms and use Open Book to generate concise, uncomplicated summaries of texts.
The FIRST project, valued at EUR 2.5 million, was made possible by a grant from the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Development (FP7).

The project lasted for 36 months between October 2011 and September 2014.
Full details of the FIRST project, A Flexible Interactive Reading Support Tool, and its partners, are available at the project website:
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