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New app to help people with autism influence technological developments

Published: 
2 October 2015
Dr Sarah Parsons

A new mobile app has been launched which aims to tap into the creativity of people with autism to find new tech solutions to some of their everyday challenges. ‘ASCmeI.T.’, a free mobile app available on Android and Apple, has been developed by a consortium of researchers from the universities of Southampton, Bath and Sussex.

The app has the simple aim of involving people with autism in the development of new technologies that could help them. It enables people with autism spectrum conditions – as well as families, teachers, professionals and anyone who supports someone with autism – to share their ideas on what kind of new technology would best help.

Dr Sarah Parsons of the Southampton Education School at the University of Southampton leads a seminar series on innovative technologies for autism. The idea of asking the community about useful technologies came from a talk at one of her events by a speaker with an autism spectrum condition.

Dr Parsons comments: “If you’ve ever had a moment where you wished there was a useful technology out there to help you, or someone else, with something related to autism, this is the chance to get your idea heard. We want to use this new app to crowdsource ideas which we can blend with latest research and development.”

Through the app, users can upload a one-minute video explaining their idea, which will be shared with researchers, so that new developments in digital technologies for autism can be matched to support the needs of users.

Despite there being more than half a million people living with autism in the UK (around one in every 100), this is the first time such an initiative has been piloted. The researchers now hope it will lead to new developments – anything from technologies to support transitions, service delivery or inclusion through to learning, employment or addressing bullying – that will be uniquely suited to the needs of those with autism.

Co-investigator on the project, Dr Mark Brosnan from the University of Bath’s Department of Psychology, explains: “This project is totally unique and encourages ‘citizen science’. ASCmeI.T is a simple yet highly effective way to enable people with autism to get their voices heard and to allow the creativity of a previously neglected group to be realised.”

Commenting on the potentials for the new app, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the University of Sussex Dr Nicola Yuill says: “Getting developers to listen to the people on the ground is really going to make a difference for people with autism.”

Everyone associated with autism is invited to submit a video. In addition there is a competition being run for schools, entries for which will be entered into a prize draw to win one of 30 Raspberry Pi computers. The deadline for submissions for the school competition is midnight on Monday 30 November, although the larger project is ongoing and videos are always welcome.

To download the app search ‘ASCmeI.T.’ via your app store. Find out more about the project here.

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