SPARK is an online tool created to help people who live with autism to talk awhile together.
Thijs has autism. He doesn’t talk much. Talking is not so easy. Frank is Thijs’s dad. Frank created SPARK to make it easier to talk awhile with Thijs.
For all the reasons you have read or heard about before coming to SPARK today, you know that talking can be difficult for many people who have classic autism. You know that talking awhile with someone who has autism can be difficult, even frustrating. You know that you often run out of ideas quite quickly because they don’t respond so easily.
SPARK is based on two ideas. SPARK provides an enormous source of inspiration and pool of topics for a conversation. More importantly however is that SPARK works from the strength of the talking partner. This strength is based on a combination of visual and memorisation strength. It is our experience, that although talking might be very difficult, visualisation and memorisation skills of people who have autism are often very strong. That is what we are building on. Spark is not a silver bullet but by using it a lot and with great patience, you will be spending time together, talking more and improving your relationship. And you’ll have fun doing it together.
To make this less conceptual, look at a simple question (visualisation). In most cases one can easily formulate an answer out of a question because most of the words in the question are used to make up the answer. For example:
Question: What color is the grass?
Answer: The color of the grass is green.
With the exception of the word green all the words in the answer are words used in the question. By showing a green lawn we complement the question and answer. With lots of practice you will find that new and unpracticed sitiuations will be answered correctly. Start with SPARK and find the right level for you and your talking partner. You may have to follow the words in the questions initially with your finger on the screen to maintain focus. You may also find yourself having lateral discussions about the pictures. Find the right starting level and work from there to build on.
With SPARK, you have a pool of language to use to start talking and keep talking awhile. You know that talking helps build good relationships. You know that relationships help make life good. SPARK helps build relationships by making it easier for people to talk awhile together. SPARK helps make life good.
Over the years, SPARK has grown into a large and fluid database that currently contains over 10,000 questions and answers linked to images covering a wide variety of subject material. Separate modules have evolved over time. These are:
Single Sparks. These are the easiest SPARKS. The focus is concentrated on single words. This could be a noun or a verb.
Spark an answer. In this section we work on formulating an answer to all the normal questions like what, who, where, why etc.
Spark an answer. Here your talking partner needs to formulate the question that matches the answer.
Sparks of speech. The questions here focus on the individual words in the sentence like nouns, verbs, adjectives but also conjugation.
Spark a conversation. Here the conversations are already getting more complicated. You will also start to develop lateral discussions about things that might not even be on the SPARK that you are working with.
Sparks of math. Life is also about numbers and counting and that is what we can work on in this section.
There is a significant body of repetitive material that is structured yet varied. The structure complements the specific way we imagine people with autism learn. Variation discourages simply memorizing the material and helps make more natural talking possible.
You can select material to practice in various ways. This allows you to customize the content and to have material at hand that is of interest. SPARK is organised in such a way that it allows a natural increase in complexity of language practice. The more you talk awhile together, the more you talk awhile together.
There is virtually no sound in SPARK because sounds can sometimes be loud and irritating. In addition there is no need for sound because you will always be there with your talking partner. In SPARK there is also no score to keep. There are no wrong answers, there is only talking together. That is the main purpose of SPARK, to keep talking.
SPARK is an online tool created to make it easier to talk together awhile. Talking together awhile builds relationships.
Relationships help make life good.