3R creates Life Sherpa, a breakthrough assistive technology

Doug Meeker, an accomplished digital media and technology veteran, found out that his three-year-old son was autistic. Doug figured he had 15 years to teach Scott the skills he would need to become an independent adult. “It became my passion,” said Doug.

Doug and his team of autism experts, behavioral therapists, and parents distilled complex principles of behavior-changing techniques into three simple activities: remind, reinforce, and reward. These 3 Rs must be applied consistently for every task. “Who has that kind of patience, fortitude and time?” asks Doug. “But changing ‘who’ to ‘what’ changes everything. What has the patience, fortitude, and time? Smartphones, smart watches, computer tablets with visual and touch interfaces – the perfect assistive technology for kids with developmental disabilities.” Voila! The Life Sherpa platform is born.

Life Sherpa displays each child’s task list on his or her digital device. As tasks are learned, more are added. All the tasks build progressively, leading kids to become more independent. Proctors monitor the lists to check that tasks are properly completed.

Doug worked with Bob Smith, Director of the Virginia SBDC’s Innovation Commercial Assistance Program (ICAP). They developed the business plan, identified possible clients, worked on the financials, etc. Bob also introduced Doug to Dr. Heidi Graff, Director of Learning Into Future Environments (LIFE) program at George Mason University. Mason LIFE helps kids with learning disabilities transition into university life. They started a pilot program, using the Life Sherpa platform with Mason LIFE students, along with a $30,000 grant.

Success! Students enjoyed the sense of freedom and independence that was possible with the reminders from the Life Sherpa, instead of being “nagged” by a person. By starting their day successfully, they had a better day overall.

“Scott, who is also a recent cancer survivor, is progressing well. He’s a sophomore at John Champe High School where he is on the cross-country and track teams. Last spring he passed his two SOL’s for the first time ever. And he never misses the bus anymore, thanks to his Sherpa,” Doug reports.

Based on their success so far, Doug and his team are now focusing on the more complex issue of job training. Helping employers hire, train, and support neurodiverse individuals in the workplace is a much larger market. 3R just signed a deal with DXC Technologies – a Fortune 500 end-to-end IT company with 6000 clients across 70 countries – to power their innovative Dandelion Program. Dandelion is an initiative that started in Australia five years ago to train and employ individuals on the autism spectrum in those high-demand tech jobs, including cybersecurity and data analytics. The 3R method continues to grow.

Virginia SBDC