Children with Autism Benefit from Avatar Therapy

The Challenge

There are thousands of children and young adults in the US who are diagnosed with autism and seek some forms of therapy for their condition. About one in 64 children born in the US are affected by it, and after the age of 10, there are not many ways they can be helped. And there are hundreds of young adults who have the autism condition who are struggling to come into mainstream life, move away from home and succeed on their own in the world.

The Solution

Recently, Gary Jesch and CHOPS have developed a version of their 3D Digital Puppeteer system to help those people improve their social and conversational skills and language skills, by interacting as avatars they can control themselves. The 3D Digital Puppeteer was designed to offer high-quality animation, facial expressions and lip sync while running on gaming computers. Just recently Jesch developed a way to put some of the necessary external functions into software code so that extra hardware could be eliminated. This move makes the system even flexible and easier to install and use.

Avatars for Autism Make
Learning and Self-Expression Safe and Exciting


A new computer system using interactive avatars to help those on the autism spectrum with social, conversational and motivational skills was introduced at the 2015 National Autism Society Conference, in Denver, CO, live animation pioneer Gary Jesch of CHOPS & Assoc. Live Animation.

Jesch has been working on updating and revising his newly-acquired source code to improve the quality of the graphics and reduce the amount of AV hardware by putting more capabilities and menus on the computer system. These efforts are designed to make the live animation system easier for therapists and parents to use when working with their children on the autism spectrum.


This is an incredible tool for working with kids with autism. It has changed the way I work. They are very visual learners and their brains think in animation. Communicating through the avatar removes the authority figure and makes it easier to address certain issues as well as to teach and practice very specific skills. It’s a powerful reinforcer and a teaching instrument. It has truly been life-changing in my practice.

Enid Webb MA-CCC, SLP

Speech-Language Pathologist, Webb Center for Communication and Learning

Invirtua 3D Digital Puppeteer SystemThe Invirtua 3D Digital Puppeteer ™ – created by performance animation guru Gary Jesch – features live, animated 3D characters that can be operated much like a digital puppet show, demonstrating positive behaviors in an entertaining way. Children with autism can also easily learn to use the simple controls and communicate their feelings through the avatar characters. This exciting new therapeutic tool is for use by autism therapists, autism treatment centers and parents of children with autism.

“Helping people with autism really matters to Invirtua,” said Jesch. “From the day they receive their system, they belong to a group of users, therapists and scientists where they can share their experiences and learn new methods. We are there to support them every step of the way and to keep them safe in the process.”

Malachi with EnidExperts in the autism arena agree that the Invirtua 3D Digital Puppeteer ™ has promise for treating children with autism and other learning challenges.


Dr. Ian C. Hale

Professor Ian C. Hale, Ph.D. FCIS, author (The Insider’s Guide to Autism and Asperger’s, et al), consultant and speaker, stated “Closely following the development and clinical testing of the Invirtua software package, it is, in my professional experience of 30 years, the best communicative aide available to the autistic community. The software allows people with autism to express and communicate their feelings in a unique and new environment. Invirtua provides an outstanding, economical and multi-versatile tool equally useful at home, for teachers and the psychological profession. I recommend it 100%.”

Dr. Tom Buggey

Dr. Tom Buggey

According to Dr. Tom Buggey, a researcher with 22 years of experience in modeling, an established intervention for autism, “One of the most effective ways to teach someone what to do is to show him or her how to do it. Live modeling is when a child imitates a person who is demonstrating the successful performance of a task in real life. Video modeling is when a child imitates a person who has been videotaped successfully performing the task.”

“Invirtua’s program involves modeling through an avatar,” Buggey continued. “At present, there is little direct research on the topic; however, there is research on components of Invirtua that make me think it has the potential to become a powerful tool for teaching children, especially those with autism, for whom we have so few effective methods.”

“Invirtua’s technology intersects with an established intervention that delivers rapid improvement, great maintenance, and generalization to other skills,” said Buggey. “The use of video also allows therapists to teach in an area that is inherently challenging for persons with autism – social interaction. Invirtua takes this one step further by allowing the user to become the controller. The software allows the user to control all aspects of the avatar’s performance, including the facial emotions and eye contact. This alone is an important, groundbreaking aspect of the program.”

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