Mental Imagery Therapy for Autism (MITA) is a unique, early-intervention application for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. MITA is currently being validated in the largest autism clinical trial in history.
The MITA clinical trial (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02708290) has enrolled over 10,000 families with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in just six months. In order to continue to expand on autism research and improve its statistical power, Boston-based company ImagiRation is extending recruitment in its observational trial from 10,000 to 20,000 children with ASD.
MITA is a unique, early-intervention application for children with autism that allows parents to administer early-intervention therapy in the comfort of their homes. The application is widely used as a supplement to any other therapy received by a child. MITA is designed for early childhood and intended for long-term, daily use. Its bright, interactive exercises are based on therapeutic techniques that have been shown to be effective for individuals with ASD. Every three months, parents and caregivers are asked to complete a diagnostic questionnaire. This diagnostic information, along with anonymous data analytics from the application, are used to measure the effectiveness of MITA therapy.
Although MITA is designed for long-term use, some parents see the effects of MITA much sooner. Mrs. Amber Bonasse started administering MITA to her son, who was diagnosed with ASD before he turned 3. “I have tried many things for my son, even before the diagnosis to no avail… One of the most profound changes came after he started the MITA program… I was able to definitively see a major difference in him and his ability to problem solve and process, she writes.
The MITA application is available for free download in the Apple Store, Google Play, and Amazon App Store.
MITA is based on Pivotal Response Treatment (PRT), one of the best-supported therapies for children diagnosed with ASD. The exercises target three of four critical areas of development supported by PRT: response to multiple cues, motivation, and self-management.
A child's ability to notice and to respond to multiple visual cues presented simultaneously is the most critical. This ability is typically impaired in individuals with autism, leading to what is commonly described as “stimulus overselectivity, or "tunnel vision." Improving the capacity to respond to multiple cues has been shown to reduce stimulus overselectivity, which in turn leads to vast improvements in general learning. A peer-reviewed article describing MITA: goo.gl/lyHw95
The latest version of MITA (released in May, 2016) includes nine adaptive games that develop a child’s mental-integration ability as well as train their language functions. The visual exercises follow a systematic approach for developing a child's ability to notice multiple characteristics of an object. MITA starts with simple exercises that teach a child to attend to only one feature, such as size or color. Over time, the exercises get more difficult and require the child to attend to two features simultaneously, such as both color and size. In order to solve these puzzles, a child must learn how to hold two pieces of information in their mind (both the size and the color of an object) and make a decision based on the combination of these features. Once a child has practiced attending to two features, the program moves on to puzzles that require attending to three features, such as color, size and shape, and then eventually to puzzles that involve attending to an ever-increasing number of characteristics.
The verbal exercises in MITA also train your child’s mental integration ability. However, these puzzles offer a more conventional, verbal approach to facilitating language acquisition, starting with simple vocabulary, and progressing towards higher forms of language (such as adjectives, prepositions, and syntax).
As a child progresses through MITA's systematic exercises, he or she is developing the ability to simultaneously attend to a greater number of features, reducing the propensity towards tunnel vision, and thus developing an essential component of language. The ability to mentally build an image based on a combination of multiple features is absolutely necessary for understanding syntax, spatial prepositions and verb tenses.
The three pilot studies of MITA have demonstrated that it can be successfully administered by parents at home to their children that are as young as two years of age. This innovative, educational app is already being used by thousands of kids with autism. These fun exercises are disguised as interactive games for kids, and work as a really great therapy tool to use for children with autism. The MITA app follows a systematic approach where kids start with very simple, easy exercises that require attending to only one feature - such as color, size, or shape. Then the exercises move on to requiring simultaneous attention to two features, such as color and shape, or shape and size. Then the exercise requires attending to three features such as shape, or size and color. The exercises continue on until the child can integrate multiple features into one Gestalt.
MITA is developed by Dr. Andrey Vyshedskiy, a neuroscientist from Boston University; Rita Dunn, a Harvard University-educated early-childhood specialist; MIT-educated Jonah Elgart and a group of award-winning artists and developers working alongside experienced therapists.
For more information, please visit www.imagiration.com or contact us at imagiration(at)gmail(dot)com
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