Behavioral Monitoring to Identify Self-Injurious Behavior among Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder

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Virginia Tech

Self-injurious behavior (SIB) is one of the most dangerous behavioral responses among individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), often leading to injury and hospitalization. There is an ongoing need to measure the triggers of SIB to inform management and prevention. These triggers are determined traditionally through clinical observations of the child with SIB, often involving a functional assessment (FA), which is methodologically documenting responses to stimuli (e.g., environmental or social) and recording episodes of SIB. While FA has been a "gold standard" for many years, it is costly, tedious, and often artificial (e.g., in controlled environments). If performed in a naturalistic environment, such as the school or home, caregivers are responsible for tracking behaviors. FA in naturalistic environments relies on caregiver and patient compliance, such as responding to prompts or recalling past events.

Recent technological developments paired with classification methods may help decrease the required tracking efforts and support management plans. However, the needs of caregivers and individuals with ASD and SIB should be considered before integrating technology into daily routines, particularly to encourage technology acceptance and adoption. To address this, the perspectives of SIB management and technology were first collected to support future technology design considerations (Chapter 2). Accelerometers were then selected as a specific technology, based on caregiver preferences and reported preferences of individuals with ASD, and were used to collect movement data for classification (Chapter 3). Machine learning algorithms with featureless data were explored, resulting in individual-level models that demonstrated high accuracy (up to 99%) in detecting and classifying SIB.

Group-level classifiers could provide more generalizable models for efficient SIB monitoring, though the highly variable nature of both ASD and SIB can preclude accurate detection. A multi-level regression model (MLR) was implemented to consider such individual variability (Chapter 4). Both linear and nonlinear measures of motor variability were assessed as potential predictors in the model. Diverse classification methods were used (as in Chapter 3), and MLR outperformed other group level classifiers (accuracy ~75%).

Findings from this research provide groundwork for a future smart SIB monitoring system. There are clear implications for such monitoring methods in prevention and treatment, though additional research is required to expand the developed models. Such models can contribute to the goal of alerting caregivers and children before SIB occurs, and teaching children to perform another behavior when alerted.

autism spectrum disorder, self-injurious behavior, accelerometers, classification, Machine learning