Wristbands that measure surface skin temperature and heart rate could transform the lives of people with autism by predicting big behavioural shifts
Biometric wristbands that can “see inside” the bodies of people with autism and predict dramatic behaviour changes could be commercially available within two to five years.
Dr Matthew Goodwin, an expert on wearable bio sensors in autistic patients, claims that the ability to measure minute physiological changes such as surface skin temperature and heart rate could transform the lives of people with autism.
Together with his team at Boston’s Northeastern University, Dr Goodwin is working with a lightweight wristband, similar to a watch, which measures four physiological signals – heart rate, surface skin temperature, sweating, and three dimensional movements of the limb that is wearing the sensor.
The team is also exploring ways to stream information from wristbands live to mobile phones, via an app. This would enable a family member or teacher to closely monitor the person they are caring for.
People with severe autism, who are often unable to communicate through words or body language, are apt to dramatic behavioural changes that include self injury, aggression and running away.
Through ten years of research in America, Dr Goodwin and his team have established that body signals may be able to predict these sometimes violent changes before they happen, giving carers the opportunity to take appropriate action.
“The autistic children we’re working with can’t tell us what’s going on. They can’t say they have a headache, or ‘it’s too loud in here’ or ‘I don’t like this teacher’,” he said.
“If we want to understand them, we need to look at what their body is telling us – and we need to do this in a gentle, unobtrusive way.”