CatapalloVR offers therapists new tool to teach life skills

Kryn McClain wants to see children on the autism spectrum live an independent, enriched life.

The counselor trained in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and co-founder of Paragon Behavioral Health Services in Wyomissing has launched a new company to provide health care providers and schools with a new tool to do just that.

CatapalloVR is a business-to-business software service company that offers virtual platforms to service providers to help both children and adults learn new skills to navigate life.

“We needed to support clients in a new way,” McClain said. “We created video modules, some using AI, to teach skills in safe environment.”

The five-to-seven-minute modules are led by a virtual instructor. McClain said an avatar leads participants through each activity that teaches basic living, communication and occupational skills and emotional regulation.

“Clients can learn to do things in a safe way,” she said. “They can learn to cook without the fear of getting burned because they are doing it virtually. They learn muscle memory before actually doing a task.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 36 8-year-olds are diagnosed with autism, she said.

“That’s an incredibly high number.”
McClain said Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania gave her $100,000 to develop the product. She also took first place in Berks Launch Box Ideas Test Lab in December of 2022.
“We started by targeting youths who were at a transitional age,” she said.

Some of the modules teach basic things like how to brush teeth, take a shower and cook.

“There is also a cognitive behavioral therapy platform that offers ways to manage emotions,” she said.

Those include exposure modules that deal with trauma, escape rooms for working through problems and meditations to learn to handle emotions.

“We also cover school readiness and body safety,” McClain said. “We have 140 modules that are laid out like Netflix. Therapists can help patients scroll through and find the ones that they need.”

For adults, McClain said there are modules that teach skills for job interviews, customer service, manufacturing basics and money management.

McClain’s main clients are autism providers, health care workers, educators and special educators, she said.

“Our subscription-based service is only available to businesses and schools because we want people to work with professionals while using the modules,” McClain said. “The whole process is to learn to transition to real life in a safe way.”

The company which launched in January 2023 has 50 customers.

“A year from now it will be more mainstream,” McClain said. “We’d like to see it go nationwide. We are in nine states currently.”

McClain said she is working with Penn State Health to get the service incorporated there.

“I am bootstrapping, knocking on doors, and making lots of calls to get the word out,” McClain said. “AI databases send out a lot of information and I attend national conferences as well. We are trying to scale this and reach as many organizations as possible.”

McClain said the idea is to take mental health nationwide and provide new tools to providers.

“We don’t have many. There are textbooks that have been around for a long time, but that’s about it,” she said. “We want to give people resources to enhance their therapeutic journey, whatever that looks like.”

McClain said the library of modules are set up in sequential difficulty and she leaves it to the professional to determine what to use in what order.

The amount of time it takes someone to master the modules depends on their intellectual ability. McClain said some can run through three modules in an hourlong session while others will take longer.

Each module has a skill rating, and clients need to reach 80% several times before they have mastered it, she said.

McClain, who no longer sees patients, said CatapalloVR has one fulltime employee and will have an intern for the summer.

“We use contracted professionals to build the models,” she said. “My goal is to have 200 by the end of the year, but the number could be endless. We have created 137 since last year, so that number is attainable.”

The content of the new modules is determined by asking customers what is missing, McClain said.

“There are common themes among them, and I use my expertise to determine what is next,” she said.

McClain sees the company growing because there are not enough programs for those on the autism spectrum that age out of adolescent programs.

“There are only so many service providers and adults don’t age out,” she said.

Source Lehigh Valley Business