KU grads create mobile app to help people with Asperger’s

Psychologists who earned their degrees at Kansas University are taking their work into the mobile world, offering applications for autistic kids, teens, young adults and their families to use on iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch devices.

The applications — Sosh, Sosh Lite and an increasing number of their component parts — are available through Apple’s iTunes App Store and already have been downloaded by 5,000 people in the United States and 22 other countries.

The apps are designed to help people with Asperger’s syndrome improve their social skills by giving them tools they can use at school, in restaurants and other places outside of their homes, therapist’s offices and other structured environments.

The full version of the application offers 60 screens that help users interact with people, reduce stress, manage behaviors, think through problems and understand their feelings.

Among the most popular segments, which have been spun off into smaller apps of their own: “The Shredder,” which allows the user to describe a negative situation using text, then drag it down into an audible and visible shredder for destruction; and a voice meter that allows users to regulate how loud they talk, something that can be a challenge for people with Asperger’s.

The app also provides feedback, giving users and families information that can help users manage their condition and improve their social skills.

“This is an app that follows you around and coaches you,” said Mark Bowers, a pediatric psychologist in private practice at the Ann Arbor Center for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, in Ann Arbor, Mich. “It’s like a psychologist in your pocket.”

Bowers, who developed the app, spent 15 years in Lawrence, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a doctorate in child clinical psychology at Kansas University. His wife, Kelly Bowers, also has worked on the app; she received her doctorate in counseling psychology at KU.