Conor, now 5, is already benefitting from AI in his life. After undergoing 12 surgeries by the age of 2 to deal with the effects caused by PUV and related issues, he was diagnosed with autism at age 3, and has had difficulty speaking. He is working with speech therapists, and is also benefitting from an app called Helpicto that uses AI to convert spoken words into a series of images.
Created by French company Equadex, the app, too, came from the heart – several of the company’s employees have personal experiences with autism. Equadex created Helpicto using Azure Cognitive Services and the Microsoft Azure cloud platform.
“It’s very hard to have a child not be able to speak or communicate with you,” Mulholland says. “He was 4 when he first said, ‘Mama.’ When he did, it was amazing to hear it.”
Conor also learned how to say “Dada” and “Amma,” or Emma, for his 7-year-old sister, who dotes on him.
“It’s really sweet to see how caring she is and how much she wants him to be successful,” Mulholland says. “She helps him practice on words. I can see her being in a field of study someday that’s very focused on helping others, whether it’s as a teacher or doctor, or something along those lines. Her life will be forever changed because of having a brother like him.”
Mulholland says she is “humbled” by all the support she has had – from her husband, Kyle, an accountant who stays at home with Conor, to Microsoft for giving her a platform to tell her story, to the companies that want to hear and embrace it.
“I always encourage people, ‘Don’t pigeonhole yourself, think of ways that you can really harness technology to drive greater good, because sometimes those solutions are right in front of you,’” she says. “And imagine how great of a world we could live in if we had more stories like this.”
Top photo: Melissa Mulholland with son Conor. (Photo by Scott Eklund/Red Box Pictures)