When Mark Gauci, a retired military veteran in Newfoundland, learned that his son had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), he prepared for a huge lifestyle change. But one thing he didn’t foresee was the paperwork. Stacks upon stacks of it.
The paperwork was a bi-product of his son’s Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy, a form of therapy that helps improve social function.
“There’s a lot of paper, like a ridiculous amount of paper,” said Gauci in an interview. “And in this day and age of trying to reduce paper in the workplace, it doesn’t make sense. My ex-wife has a stack of papers in her basement that’s literally over a metre high.”
In 2016 Gauci started his company, ABA Access. It is a software-as-a-service business that digitizes all of this paperwork and connects all parties involved with the child’s development. It offers an online resource library that can be run on any device with an internet connection.
Gauci and his team have submitted a proposal to Eastern Health, the health authority of Newfoundland and Labrador, for a paid beta-test of the software. He has proposed that it be tested with 100 children with ASD between now and the end of the fiscal year. If all goes well, the authority can extend its software subscription for another two years.
ABA Access started at the Evolution program at Memorial University’s Genesis Centre. Gauci took his idea through the program twice.
“We did 116 interviews across the province and that’s when I realized that this isn’t just a local problem,” said Gauci. “By the end of the first program I realized I’d set my scope too small.”
He continued: “The big complaint is that kids can’t access therapy, parents don’t feel engaged, therapists feel like they can’t do an adequate job, and there’s missed opportunities for research because of these papers and how they’re stored.”
The piles of notes therapists record are handed off to parents to keep at home. Gauci said the papers are required to stay in the home for a minimum of seven years after therapy has concluded.
What’s more, the different parties involved with a child’s development (speech pathologists, occupational therapists, social workers, etc.) do not have access to this information.
“Though Eastern Health is one entity, the departments within it are not always connected,” said Gauci. “Even the education system didn’t have access to this information. We found out we could have all of these professionals connected within minutes. Finding that out was a happy little accident, as Bob Ross would say.”
Gauci said he isn’t trying to change anything about ABA therapy itself with his company. He knows first-hand how beneficial ABA is in autism therapy.
“In a relatively short amount of time I saw my son switching from a child who did not speak or make eye contact to the happy, healthy child he is today,” he said. “You wouldn't know he was on the spectrum these days, the change was that dramatic, and I’m so proud of him.”
Jennifer Lee is a reporter with Entrevestor, which provides news and data on Atlantic Canadian startups.