We aim to address the problem of affect dysregulation in youth diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Affect dysregulation refers to a failure to successfully manage one’s affect (emotions, moods, or stress responses) in a context-appropriate way. Affect dysregulation is a known challenge for many people and among neurodiverse populations, individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show greater affect dysregulation than the general population. Youth with ASD are especially at risk because affect dysregulation can have a major negative impact on their development. They have a harder time utilizing cognitive-based approaches, and are instead more likely to resort to maladaptive strategies such as suppression, visual avoidance, repetitive behavior, and aggression. In addition, available clinical treatments which target reduction in irritation and aggression, despite their benefits, impose significant health-related limitations for these youth.
In response to challenges with existing non-technology-based approaches and scarcity of vibrotactile-based approaches for adolescents diagnosed with ASD, we aim to leverage our expertise in affect regulation in both neurotypical and ASD populations, and in product design and development to design, develop, and evaluate an inconspicuous vibrotactile technology to help youth with ASD to regulate their affect. We will do this with the following steps: 1)Design a vibrotactile-based intervention for youth diagnosed with ASD. We will investigate placement, pattern and personalization of vibrotactile effects for this population, as well as appropriate in-lab stressors, based on the insights of positive psychology and participatory design. 2)Design a vibrotactile-based system that can be used for out-of-lab and longer-term studies. While we have a functional prototype that is effective for in-lab studies, it may not be effective for participants diagnosed with ASD. 3)Conduct a preliminary evaluation of the efficacy of vibrotactile-based approaches for affect regulation for youth diagnosed with ASD in the lab.
We have permission from the parents of the child shown at the beginning of these video.