Presenter: Neal Howard
Guest: Topher Wurtz
Guest Bio: Topher Wurtz is an autism dad and a career media and technology company exec. He is applying his professional experience to a very personal issue, autism, to improve life for millions of autism families. He is the Autism Village founder and offers a better understanding of the obstacles in daily life for the 3 million U.S. families who are living with autism. Autism Village is in the midst of it’s first release of a new Mobile App that will work like Yelp or TripAdvisor to help everyone in the autism community.
Segment overview: Topher Wurtz talks about the team of supporters who are an integral part of maintaining Autism Village’s assistance and advocacy of Autistics and the families and friends who care for and live with them.
Health Professional Radio
Neal Howard: Hello, you’re listening Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard, so glad that you could join us today. There are a lot of places that you could be and you chose to spend some time with us and for that, I’m grateful. It’s estimated that 1 in 42 boys is born with autism, 1 in 68 births overall would be an autistic birth. Our guest in studio today is returning to talk with us about autism and how we as a community can help the autistic community. He’s an autism dad and a media and a technology company executive as well. And he’s applying his vast professional experience to this very personal issue of autism, being an autism dad. How are you doing today Topher?
Topher Wurts: I’m great, thanks.
N: Thank you so much for returning. As the founder of Autism Village and the developer of a new app assume to be release, that deals with autism. Could you tell us a little bit about why you’re interested in autism other than the fact that you are an autism dad? And how you got into developing this Autism Village and this app?
T: Sure. Well essentially, when our son was diagnosed of autism by 11 years ago, we started to process that three million other families in the United States are on which was just work at how to best support and race our son with autism. And through that process, one of the things that we noticed was there’s lots of people working on research, causes, cures, you know sort of the medical side, lots of interesting things happening there and certainly on the therapy. And then to technology side lots of interesting happening there, people using software, systems, technology. Certainly the iPod has been a revolutionary device for autistic kids. But what we noticed is that the practical day to day problems that families have were not being as well addressed and so I’d say that our project is the result really of the past 10 years of experience just looking at what are the practical, what exactly are the practical day to day issues and challenges that you have when you’re raising a kid with autism. And since we’ve really been out and about, we’ve heard from a lot of autistic adults who share a different set of practical day to day problems on navigating into the world that the rest of us live in.
N: Now when it comes to developing apps, it’s not like their developed for free unless you’re sitting around in a dark basement somewhere just geeking away at it. Could you tell us a little bit about how you got more than 10,000 Facebook followers and Twitter account holders to get on board with you and support you in your development of this app and a support of Autism Village?
T: We started to talk about what we want to do on the social media pages and the response was as you described, it’s surprising. I mean you knew it was an acute problem but I think we were surprised to how quickly we accumulated followers and accumulated input. There’s a number of these actual problems that we’ve been out to solve. Everything from coordinating teams that are tricky to coordinate because professionals come from different organizations and sort of they hate the paperwork and privacy laws worked against you when you try to coordinate the team of people from multiple agencies to the day to day communications and classroom in management for teachers to tracking things like drug efficacy and seizures and so forth. And then you know right through the most practical problem which is just if I’m done on duty on a Saturday morning with a young autistic boy, how do I find a playground that has fence on all sides with only one entrance and egress sort of a thing or how do I find a barber who will work with my autistic kid or whatever. So that’s really how the app came to be and since we start talking about it, the followers amounted quickly. I think they were 10,000 followers in Facebook in less than a month.
N: You did mention that you have team of people. You’re not in this just you and Kirby and your wife and your other son. That you have a team with professionals that have different specialties and skills that move this Village forward. Could you talk a little bit about what types of people that you have on your team?
T: Sure. Well I’m blessed from a fairly rich career in media and marketing and technology to have a great professional network. And when I said that I was gonna work on this, we had all kinds of people volunteer to help in different areas. And so we really have technologists, we have marketing, we have public relations, we have pharma specialists, we have educational specialists. And with one and a half percent of births being an autistic with one 1/68 being autistic, you don’t have to go very far for folks to have a grandson or granddaughter or son or daughter or niece or a nephew or somebody close to them that maybe is working with this challenge. So a lot of folks came out of my professional network and volunteered their time to help us get this app together from all these different parts.
N: Now have you had any feedback from healthcare professionals themselves as to how helpful your app is and not necessarily from a medical stand pointy, but just a standpoint of making things more accessible for those suffering from autism?
T: We sure have. We had a great early feedback for example on the team collaboration spaces and the document management system that we have been there from healthcare specialist in autism that you know historically sort of this is all paper based and parents have file boxes and file boxes of paper. And it’s very difficult for a psychiatrist for example to collaborate with the teacher. But one of features that we have invented provides private and secure collaborations spaces where discussion threads or discussion around videos behaviors or the development of treatment plans or education plans can be done as a group and documents can be shared. So that a new doctor on the case can really review the entire file instead of that paper work gathering more on the basement. So we’ve had very, very positive feedback from healthcare professionals about it.
N: So not only providing greater access to the autistic community, it also streamlines keeping track of resources, keeping track of day to day things that you might discover as your autistic child or the autistic adult progresses, yeah?
T: Sure does. For example, when you’re working with a drug, pharmacological intervention otherwise many of the drugs that are being prescribed for use for autism and as a result, their understanding the drug efficacy and so forth or combinations of drug and drugs what their efficacy is, is a real track and with the drugs acting app that we have underdevelopment, a teacher or somebody at school setting can take a video of a new behavior or something has changed and comment on that and a psychiatrist can be alerted right away to view that. Similarly neurologists, they’re working with kids that have autism, they may have seizures can actually see a seizure with all the information automatically captured – duration, location and all that stuff. So it definitely has streamlined certain stream line with situations so the extent that you can accelerate the team working with this kids to come up with what’s the next methods and strategy, you are making better use of the short time that you have while the kid is really between diagnosis and sort of the mid 20’s when they kind of start to become who they’re always gonna be.
N: Now as we wrap up the segment, I’d like to ask you about your future plans as far as app development, this being the first app. Is your team working on different apps or continuing to work to improve this one as the years go by?
T: Well the center of all this is a social private and secure social hub, which combines features and Facebook and Microsoft SharePoint and other more public social tool sets. And then the apps are really meant to be specific interfaces to that core of specialized social hub to solve different news cases. So the Yelp app that we’ll be launching, this Yelp-like app that we’ll be launching this summer, the other team coordination apps with the logging and charging apps that I described are all pieces of a puzzle that go around this social engine for the autism community.
N: Tell our listeners exactly where they can get more information about Autism Village, autism in general from your perspective and more information about the soon to be released app.
T: Well certainly. Come to our website to keep track of what we’re doing and with the release of our app it’s autismvillage.com. Our social media sites on Facebook and Twitter and our weekly newsletter which you can sign up for on our webpage have more general information about autism and will link you to other autism related resources.
N: Thank you so much. You’ve been listening to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host Neal Howard. We’ve been in studio today talking with returning guest Topher Wurts, an autism dad and a media and technology executive who’s started along with his son Kirby Autism Village. And Autism Village and their team of strong supporters have developed this new app that is designed to make businesses and resources more accessible in a more timely manner to those who are suffering from autism. It’s been great having you here with us Topher.
T: Thank you so much for having me.
N: Transcript and audio of this program are available at healthprofessionalradio.com.au and also at hpr.fm. And you can subscribe to our podcast on iTunes.