Governor's Council on Developmental Disabilities named finalist on Autism Help App
Photo by Tom & Katrien, Flickr
The Governor’s Council on Developmental Disabilities (DDC) will be a finalist at the Minnesota High Tech Association’s Tekne Awards on Thursday for its work on the Autism Help App for Emergencies. Development of the app was done in collaboration with the Autism Society of Minnesota. The DDC is one of three finalists in the Mobile & Communication Technologies category. In September, the DDC’s work on the app was also honored with a Digital Government Achievement Award.
“For people with Autism Spectrum Disorders, effective communication in emergency situations is a very real and very serious issue,” said DDC Executive Director Colleen Wieck. “But standard first responder techniques may not work, given ASD-related communication issues involving verbal direction, physical touch, and flashing lights. This application is the first mobile, digital technology tool addressing the issue.”
The number of emergency calls involving people with ASD is increasing, but standard communication strategies can provoke unexpected reactions. People with ASD are often uncomfortable communicating verbally, and in situations with first responders, they may even run away from strangers in uniform and back into danger.
The free app uses a five-point color coded scale to allow people with ASD to communicate their anxiety without requiring them to verbalize it. Each number on the scale can be customized through audio and images, allowing parents to record calming emergency instructions or take pictures of local first responders to make them recognizable and familiar.