What was the project challenge?
Access ASD investigated how new digital technology could reduce social barriers amongst people on the Autism Spectrum. It’s estimated that around 700,000 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, and the project worked with adults on the spectrum to identify what things cause them difficulties and to devise tools that might help.
Who were involved?
Lancaster university academics from sociology, management, computer science, art, design, anthropology and psychology, worked with Lancashire County Council, Northlancs NHS – Occupational Therapy, Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, Action ASD, Wrong Planet, Bamber Bridge Social Club, National Autistic Society, and many people in the North-West living with autism.
What new digital technology was developed?
‘Clasp’, a hand-held digital anxiety management tool, controlled by sensory response. On squeezing, the tool connects to a digital peer support network, that is safe and secure, to help reduce isolation and gain immediate support. The tool also provides an anxiety tracking system, including a GPS-based locator facility, enabling users to monitor and self regulate their behaviour.
What are the ongoing impacts?
The process of co-design invigorated the individuals involved and has given them a sense of purpose. The project team has applied for future funds for further user testing of the tool. In addition, the tool is already being trialled in a new research project on tracking stress levels in the workplace.
A set of design guidelines for the future development of digital tools has emerged, with application potentials to wider areas of anxiety management.