1. ITV Report

Autistic teenager creates artificial intelligence but 'can't get school place'

Kari with her father Brett Lawler Photo: BPM

An autistic 13-year-old girl who has had to be educated at home for a year has created her own artificial intelligence.

It took Kari Lawler only a week to build her own virtual assistant, which operates on the same lines as Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa.

Yet, her parents say they are struggling to find her a school place, blaming a lack of understanding of the condition.

It’s incredible when you consider what the large technology companies have spent on producing something not very different to what Kari has managed to achieve in such a short space of time.

We are proud, but frustrated. She needs to be at high level education – in a grammar or independent school. But as soon as you mention the word ‘autism’ you hit a brick wall.

– Father, Brett Lawler

Kari was a pupil at Castle Bromwich Junior School, but the autism diagnosis at the age of 11 turned her school life upside down.

It came while Kari was preparing for the move to Park Hall Academy, Castle Bromwich.

As an autistic child, she was unable to partake in a number of group activities.

Parents Brett and Leanne pulled her out of the academy 12 months ago and this week met education chiefs in a bid to find a school for their daughter.

Park Hall Academy, Castle Bromwich Credit: BPM

44-year-old Brett says:

The resistance Kari is facing is solely down to a complete lack of understanding of autism.

Even though Kari has never had any learning needs, behavioural issues, communication or high-anxiety issues, schools we’ve approached just assume the worse based on stereotypes. They dismissively say ‘No’ without looking at her as an individual.

Kari wants nothing more than to be back in school, doing what she loves the most, which is learning.

– Father, Brett Lawler
Kari Lawler Credit: BPM

Tutors who visit Kari at her Castle Bromwich home say they feel she is ready to sit GCSEs now.

Kari excels at English, maths and science – but even Brett has been surprised by her latest invention.

After purchasing a few books, she very quickly taught herself the necessary programming skills and within a few days it became apparent she was making considerable progress. Amazingly, within just one week she had a working prototype.

It’s amazing what she has achieved at her age with very little resources. The fact that her personal assistant responds in a similar manner to Siri, and even has the same witty attitude when asked something out of the ordinary, is marvellous.

– Father, Brett Lawler

Kari now wants to expand her prototype and feels the human interaction it offers could help dementia sufferers.

Her dad adds:

Realistically, she appreciates she has a long way to go before realising this vision. However, in the meantime she would like to connect and learn through a mentoring role with any individuals or companies in this field.

– Father, Brett Lawler