What is the innovation?
TALI Train is the world’s first scientifically designed game-based attention training program for children with developmental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder. The impetus for TALI Train came from a lack of suitable non-pharmacological interventions to treat attention disorders and mounting evidence that targeted training can positively influence cognitive functions such as attention. The program was designed by neuroscientists at Monash University (Dr Hannah Kirk & Professor Kim Cornish).
TALI Train is delivered on a touch screen tablet, allowing it to be accessed in multiple settings. The training exercises are adaptive, so adjust in difficulty depending on the abilities of each individual child. A rigorous double blind randomised controlled trial showed that TALI Train was effective in promoting improvements in attention (selection) and numeracy skills in young children (4-10 years).
What benefits does the innovation bring?
Childhood attention deficits remain a significant and growing concern within Australia and worldwide. Without treatment, they can have devastating and long-term impacts on the developing brain. Early intervention is therefore imperative to improve the prospects of young children with attention difficulties. TALI Train provides teachers/healthcare professionals with much needed evidence-based resources that can improve focus and facilitate optimal learning and engagement. This is critically important as too many children enter the education system at a considerable disadvantage, and struggle to remain in an inclusive setting.
TALI Train also offers support for families who live in rural areas and therefore have limited access to healthcare professionals and regular face-to-face interventions. TALI Train is the first step in a new approach to supporting access and participation in education to all children.
What commercial success and/or benefit to society has it achieved?
Proven to be effective, TALI Train has far-reaching impacts, given its widespread accessibility, its suitability for early intervention (helping children to become school-ready) and its potential to optimise learning and engagement in the classroom. The documented long-term improvements in attention skills benefit individuals and their families directly, by reducing the need to access ongoing intervention services and have positive flow-on effects to the local and international economies, by reducing the US$36–52 billion annual global impact of attention disorders.
TALI Train was shortlisted for the Australian Innovation Awards (2015) and was the runner up for the BHERT Research Translation Award (2016). The program is currently available within Australian, and TALI Health has a growing network of 30 certified TALI Providers. TALI Health was awarded a CRC-P grant at the end of 2017, making it possible to develop further scientifically driven game-based tools to help assess and monitor childhood difficulties, such as inattention. In addition, a NHMRC Development Grant awarded to the research team at Monash University allows the TALI Train program to be evaluated in additional populations such as children with acquired brain injuries.
What lessons learnt can you share?
Establishing good relationships with all partners involved in the design, development, evaluation and commercialisation process is imperative. Game developers, Torus Games, were involved from the very beginning of the TALI Train project and therefore had a strong understanding of the rationale for the development. Keeping the reason for the development at the forefront, e.g. to assist young children in need of early intervention, helped to ensure that the project remained on track. The strong links between the partners were further cemented by having one of the inventors working at TALI Health for a period. This ensured that developments to the program were in line with scientific requirements and helped to build up the network of healthcare providers that form the TALI Health community.
How many new jobs has this innovation created?
Since the formation of TALI Health in 2015, the company now has over 10 employees. The research team at Monash University has expanded to 10+ and offers opportunities for students to be involved with both research and industry.