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A Vahabzadeh, NU Keshav, R Abdus-Sabur, K Huey, R Liu and NT Sahin
Abstract
Background: Students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) commonly demonstrate prominent social communication deficits, symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and chronic irritability. These challenges hinder academic progress and frequently persist despite educational, behavioral, and medical interventions. An assistive smartglasses technology may aid these individuals, especially if the technology is efficacious in ecologically-valid school settings. This study explored the feasibility and efficacy of Empowered Brain, a computerized smartglasses intervention designed as a socio-emotional behavioral aid for students with ASD. Methods: This two-part six-week study involved four school children with ASD from a public elementary school. The study incorporated an initial three-week feasibility stage followed by a three-week controlled longitudinal efficacy stage. Both stages involved the use of a twice-daily socio-emotional intervention with the smartglasses. Educators completed pre-intervention and post-intervention Aberrant Behavioral Checklist (ABC) ratings at the start of the feasibility stage, and weekly during the efficacy stage. Primary outcome measures were improvements in the ABC subscales of irritability, hyperactivity, and social withdrawal. Results: Students in both feasibility and efficacy stages demonstrated improvements (decreases) in irritability, hyperactivity, and social withdrawal compared to a baseline period and control periods, respectively. Participants in the controlled efficacy stage demonstrated decreased ABC subscale scores of 90% for irritability, 41.6% for hyperactivity, and 45.6% for social withdrawal. An intervention exposure-response improvement in irritability and hyperactivity was found during the efficacy stage. Educators rated the technology as superior or vastly superior compared to other assistive technologies. Conclusion: A substantial number of school children with ASD demonstrate chronic and impairing cognitive and behavioral challenges. This study provides evidence that Empowered Brain, a smartglasses-based socio-emotional aid for autism, is both feasible and efficacious in improving symptoms of social withdrawal, irritability, and hyperactivity in students with autism. The improvement is demonstrated as part of a longitudinal school-based intervention. Further studies involving larger samples and incorporation of randomized controlled trial methodology are underway to further elucidate the impact of this technology.
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