Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech, and nonverbal communication. Currently, one in 500 people is diagnosed with autism in India, which translates to 0.2 percent of the population.
Manu Kohli, CEO, CogniAble is a certified Project management professional (PMP) with 16 years of Global SAP Implementation and Data Analytics experience. He has authored various papers in renowned journals and books with SAP PRESS. He is also pursuing an industry-sponsored Ph.D. from IIT - Delhi integrating Enterprise applications such as SAP and Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and Network Sciences.
CogniAble is an AI-driven platform for Screening and behavioral treatment of children on Autism and Associated Disorders
CogniAble for screening autism spectrum disorder
Manu explains, “At CogniAble, we are developing artificial intelligence-based solutions for early detection, and then the intervention of children with the autism spectrum disorder. Autism is like an epidemic, before Corona, it was in the limelight. Autism is impacting one and a half to two children out of hundreds, so to make sure that you manage autism well, there is a need to detect these children very early. By detection, it means that every child that is born needs to be checked if he's growing properly, and he doesn't have the symptoms of autism or any other neurodevelopment delay. Since the population in India for newborns every year is 18 million, it is difficult to screen each child unless you have a technology-based solution. So what we are doing is, we have given the observation power of detecting the child's growth, especially on autism features to an artificial intelligence base model, where a parent or caregiver is interacting with a child in a natural setting and that session is video recorded and then that video is analyzed by an AI engine which then suggests if the child is on a risk of autism or not, if there is a delayed response observed or some features that are detected, so as to start intervention services immediately, from any remote location through a click of a button on a mobile phone. These services are very affordable and accessible. It comes with the complete protocol assessment of plans, all-digital in nature and all remotely executed,” he says.
Notion for the foundation of CogniAble
Manu sheds light on the subject, “There were two reasons for laying the foundation of CogniAble, my wife is a special educator, and when we got married in 2002, I got a chance to see special needs children which I never had experienced before. The second was, after six years of marriage, we recognized that our child was having a neurodevelopment delay and the detection was delayed because of some unforeseen reasons. But then that really motivated us to start something which can be meaningful for a lot of other parents like us who do not have those support services available,” he says.
A team that we stitched over a period of time
Manu talks on CogniAble being founded by researchers and scientists from IIT Delhi, pediatricians, psychologists from India and the USA to find affordable, accessible and high-quality management on autism condition, “For us to make that kind of solution that has a global impact and a meaningful scientific validation; you really need to have the academic pediatricians and academic scientists behind it to do that. So, I was pursuing my Ph.D. at IIT Delhi after I returned to India and my Ph.D. is focused on this topic only. So, I was very fortunate to get in touch with a few scientists and few professors from IIT Delhi in artificial intelligence, with which we piloted the solution initially and saw a lot of success. We then went to the government with our results, and the government was very, generous and supportive of our cause and funded us for a clinical trial in which we got hold of some of our partners like Dr. Monica Juneja from Maulana Azad Medical College, who is somebody who comes with a lot of experience in the autism world. And another co-founder I got was from the US, Dr. Josh, who runs multiple autism centers there. So it was a team that we stitched over a period of time. Our solution is in the clinical trial and our market price, once we take them for detection, can be done in less than Rs. 200/- which would be cost-saving for parents and families who come from Bihar, Odisha, Patna, or North-East to Delhi to get their child checked. They end up spending thousands of rupees for multiple sittings with the pediatricians. All this can happen virtually and especially with Corona, digital healthcare is anyways budding and it is available at an affordable cost. The same thing is for intervention as well, because intervention usually costs Rs. 30 to 40,000/- a month, with our tool, it will probably drop to Rs. 1500 – 2000/- a month. So that's the cost reduction and the quality we are bringing in and then the parents and child’s data is going to drive this therapy, which is the most unique thing about it,” he says.
Education and healthcare need a technological transformation
Manu shares his thoughts on IoT and AI being the future of healthcare, “I think it is inevitable, though technology and artificial intelligence coming into education and healthcare, I think these two sectors really need a technology transformation because of its limited access and also because of the cost. I think these two sectors are really going to see a lot of focus and introduction of technology like artificial intelligence, and especially after COVID as post-COVID, the adoption of this process has accelerated. Because right now we have experienced that we can work remotely and opt for digital healthcare. But I think once you start, bringing in the database decision making into telehealth, that's going to be a game-changer not only for traditional healthcare like fever but even the mental health issues like depression, autism, or dementia. So these are all going to be probably handled, and artificial intelligence will have a very large role to play in here,” he says.
(Edited by Rabia Mistry Mulla)