Using sweat sensors to monitor autistic kids’ behavior

University of Missouri uses sweat sensors to monitor child autism
University of Missouri researchers, with the help of a Q-sensor wrist-worn monitor from Affectiva, have been able to identify increased sweating to indicate the onset of worsening behaviors in autistic kids. (University of Missouri)

Kids with autism are known for sudden outbursts that can occur without warning, making it difficult for family and caretakers, particularly in public and during social occasions. University of Missouri researchers, with the help of a Q-sensor wrist-worn monitor from Affectiva, have been able to identify increased electrodermal activity levels to indicate the onset of worsening behaviors in autistic kids.

The study involved eight kids with severe cases of autism spectrum disorder who got to wear the Q-Sensors either on their wrists or ankles. Their behavior was analyzed and ranked in terms of the severity of outbursts.

The researchers found that the kids’ increased electrodermal activity, indicative of rising sweat levels, was present 60% of the time before bad cases of behavior.

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“A spike in electrodermal activity is telling us that the individual’s body is reacting physiologically to something that is stressful, which could be their internal state, something in the environment, or a combination of the two,” said Bradley Ferguson, the lead researcher of the study appearing in journal Frontiers in Psychiatry, in a statement. “If parents or caregivers are notified ahead of time that their child’s stress levels are rising, they might have a chance to intervene and de-escalate the situation before problem behaviors occur.”

Northeastern University conducted similar research, which included parameters such as heart rate and body movement. Using a predictive algorithm, the Northeastern team achieved an 84% accuracy in predicting outbursts. Both studies involved less than two dozen people, so further research will be necessary. There’s a possibility that autistic kids will wear smartwatches that work to help their parents manage bad behaviors.

 

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