Designing a Chat-Bot for Non-Verbal Children on the Autism Spectrum

Stud Health Technol Inform. 2018:252:63-68.


There is a significant amount of anecdotal evidence of the benefits of individuals on the autism spectrum interacting with technology via natural language. Many of these individuals are non-verbal but still able to communicate via augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) aids. This paper presents the design of a AAC software program (app) with embedded artificial conversational agent, called Alex. Alex runs on a Android device and is able to engage with the user on a variety of topics using symbols and images. Alex may be programmed via speech and occupational therapists and other key stakeholders via speech and hence does not require any specialised computer skills. The importance of customisation, interoperability, personalisation and motor skill considerations is herein discussed.

Keywords: artificial intelligence; augmentative and alternative communication; autism; natural language processing.

MeSH terms

  • Autistic Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Child
  • Communication
  • Communication Aids for Disabled*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Speech
  • User-Computer Interface*