Feasibility Study in Development of a Wearable Device to Enable Emotion Regulation in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Virginia Tech

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a group of developmental disabilities characterized by impairments in social interaction and communication and by difficulties in emotion recognition and regulation. There is currently no cure for autism but psychosocial interventions and medical treatments exist. However, very few of them have been trialed on young children and others pose limitations. Strengthening young children's capacity to manage their emotions is important for academic success. Thus it becomes important to design and test the feasibility of an appropriate methodology that can teach emotion regulation to young children (age 3-6 years) with ASD. This thesis addresses the problem by proposing a novel framework that integrates physiology with Cognitive Behavior Theory to enable emotion regulation in the target population by exposing them to real-time stressful situations. The framework uses a feedback loop that measures the participant's physiology, estimates the level of stress being experienced and provides an audio feedback. The feasibility of the individual building blocks of the framework was tested by conducting pilot studies on nine typically developing children (age 3-6 years). The attention capturing capacity of different audio representations was tested, and a stress profile generating system was designed and developed to map the measured physiology of the participant on to a relative stress level. 33 out of 43 instances of audio representations proved to be successful in capturing the participants' attention and the stress profiles were found to be capable of distinguishing between stressed and relaxed state of the participants with an average accuracy of 83%.

Autism, Physiology, Psychology, Emotion Regulation, Fuzzy Inference System