Smurks started as a digital application to tag Facebook,
Twitter and other posts with happy, sad or angry faces. But
the fun electronic tool is reaching far beyond entertainment.
In fact, it is helping children with autism identify and express
Smurks, an application available on the iPhone or iPad, displays
about 350 "emoticons," or expressions that convey different
emotions. It allows the user to touch the face and tweak its
Doctors are now using the application to work with children with
autism spectrum disorder to help them better understand and
New Yorker cartoonist Pat Byrnes created the app based on an
idea he had for a cartoon.
"I was trying to make a joke cartoon of the Twitter 140
character limit," he says.
He says he is thrilled with the reaction to Smurks.
"We were shooting just to do something useful, and I'm glad we
found somewhere it can do something substantial," he says.
Dr. Phillip Epstein, who works in advanced neuro-diagnostics at
a clinic in Wheeling, is excited at the prospect of using Smurks to
help children with autism connect with emotions, both in themselves
"Smurks gives children with autism the opportunity to expand
their 'repertoire' of emotions and a chance to learn to express
these emotions appropriately in public," he says.
Byrnes lives in Chicago with his wife, Illinois Attorney General
Lisa Madigan, and their two daughters.
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