Those who fall under the autism spectrum face sudden bouts of aggressive behavior quite often. Sudden panic attacks and impulsive behavior is commonly seen in the autism spectrum disorder. Caretakers and families of the patients often face a hard time handling such situations and they need all the help they could find to minimize the damage. Scientists have engineered a new monitoring device which is capable of predicting these outbursts ahead of time, creating a window to be prepared for the outcome.
When feeling anxious and overwhelmed, autism patients are unable to express the cause behind the feeling. These feelings manifest into sudden bouts of physical and emotional distress, posing a threat to themselves and others in the vicinity.
Mathew Goodwin, a behavioral scientist at Northeastern University is researching the possibilities, hoping to aid the higher stress levels of autism sufferers to predict outbursts ahead of time. Mathew developed a small, wearable device equipped with sensors for monitoring markers of stress such as the heart rate, sweat production skin temperature, and arm movements. The team tested the device on 20 children with autism who were prone to aggressive behavior.
Research and the result.
The researchers made the children wear the device for a period of 87 hours. The team monitored the bodily changes with the timings of the aggressive bout. After the data was collected, the team was able to predict an aggressive outburst one minute before with 84 percent accuracy.
“If we could give caregivers advance notice, it would prevent them from getting caught off guard and potentially allow them to relax the individual and make sure everyone in the environment is safe,” Goodwin says.
The researchers believe that this technology could be a breakthrough for those who are suffering from autism as well as their caregivers. As Goodwin explains, unexpected outbursts cause problems in regular day to day activities. The ability to prepare, even with just a minute’s notice, can make things more manageable.
“Families with children who act aggressively tell us that they don’t know what causes these outbursts, and they’re fearful it could happen anytime, so they self-impose house arrest,” Goodwin says. “They don’t go to the movies. They don’t go to the grocery store with their kids. They don’t go to parks.”
The team aims to research more on the performance of the device, with another study which involves 240 autism sufferers with aggressive tendencies. With larger data and improved machine algorithms, the warning time could be increased.