The first ever digital tool to enable people with autism to connect to their social network when they feel stressed has been invented by researchers.
It is estimated that around 500,000 people in the UK have autism, with a third of adults with the condition experiencing social and mental health problems due to a lack of support.
Many people on the autistic spectrum find difficulties in interacting with other people, which is why researchers have created a handheld tool to make it easier for them to communicate how they feel.
The Catalyst project http://www.catalystproject.org.uk/ brings together researchers and adults with autism to find out what they need and how it can be best developed.
Dr Will Simm said: “The idea is that the person with autism carries the device in their pocket and squeezes it hard if they feel stressed.
“It’s a discreet way of communicating anxiety and the device is connected to their social network.
“The device triggers mobile phone alerts and social network posts letting their family and friends know if they’re stressed so they can either go to help if they’re nearby or send a supportive text.”
The advantage of the digital tool is that it can also create an online map of people’s stress patterns so they can learn when and why they are most likely to feel anxious. The project is part of an ambitious £1.9m Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council project called Catalyst led by Professor Jon Whittle from Lancaster’s School of Computing and Communications. Catalyst is made up of series of short research ‘sprints’ designed to test the boundaries of existing communications technology and empower groups to change the world for the better.