You can play MouseTrial just for fun if you want to, and lots of people do. But it's most commonly
used as part of a program of discrete trial exercises to
develop vocabulary and communication in children with autism. Often this will be part of
an ABA program. MouseTrial can't replace an
experienced discrete trial tutor, of course, but it can make a useful contribution towards some of
Learning new vocabulary
MouseTrial's feature of flashing the target item if a different object is clicked enables it
to be used to introduce new words. You can also use a bit of manual prompting to help the child
hit the right object in the early stages; either hand-over-hand on the mouse or by pointing to
the right object on the screen. Another approach is to introduce new objects one at a time into
an array of more familiar items so that the new item is conspicuous as the "odd one out".
Keeping old vocabulary
Many parents will be familiar with the frustrating experience of having some supposedly well
established vocabulary "disappear". You can use MouseTrial to provide a regular reminder of previously
learned words to help to prevent this happening. For example, if you find that the words for
colours are getting forgotten then you can have a play on the
Size, Shape and Colour module every day or two alongside your work on new words.
Raising the number of trials
Opinions vary on how intensive an early intervention program for autism needs to be, but you may
well have a particular target in mind to provide a suitable level of "brain exercise". MouseTrial
can be a relatively painless way of increasing the daily amount of activity. If you reach the stage
where your child can use MouseTrial unsupervised then you can make use of "gaps" in your program
schedule to gain a valuable boost in the number of trials. MouseTrial gets through trials at a pretty
brisk and very consistent pace, so you may find your trial rate increasing even when used under
supervision. The score logging features will help you keep track.
Giving Mums and Tutors a breather
Discrete trial work can be a lot of fun but it can also be tiring.
We have found MouseTrial very useful to create a little "breathing space" during which parents and
helpers can relax, take notes, cook something, or gather materials for the next session.
Even if you're using it in a supervised or semi-supervised way it doesn't require the same intense
concentration needed for one-to-one discrete trial sessions. So you can often get something else
done at the same time, or simply take a break.
MouseTrial exercises consist of a voice asking the child to do something. It's not the child who
gets to choose what the task is. So playing regularly gets the child used to following instructions and
not necessarily being in control. We don't want to turn our children into "little robots" of course,
but being able to carry out an instruction when asked to is a useful skill to be comfortable with for
school, playgroup, work, and everyday social situations.
Familiarity and Fluency on the computer
A lot of kids with autism take to the computer with enthusiasm. This is a great thing for their
long-term quality of life, independence and contentment. As parents we hope to help our kids become
more fluent with communication and more comfortable and competent with the outside world that surrounds
them. But whatever level they reach, society is becoming more and more autism-friendly due to the
constantly expanding range of activities that you can perform online. You can now converse by email,
express your thoughts in blog, do your shopping and pay your bills online, and even earn your living
from the comfort of your screen and keyboard. So even if spoken language and social situations remain a
little difficult it doesn't mean you have to live a limited life. Using MouseTrial gives the child
experience of using the mouse and operating a simple piece of software. Basic skills, but an important