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New technology to help children with Autism

Collaborating Organizations



NAME Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists
Web site http://www.peatni.org/
Addressed users Applied Behaviour Analysis for Children with Autism
Objectives and concepts of the project

Peat are a NI charity that provide ABA informed behaviour support and education to enable parents to undertake autism intervention at home. PEAT have led the development of the SimpleSteps multimedia software package, in collaboration with Prof Keenan. Additionally, they have played key roles in the UK EPSRC funded BMAC (Behaviour collection app for parents) and Big Lottery UK funded LifePal (Self-management apps for young people with autism) that are led by Ulster Univeristy.



NAME TakeTen
Web site http://taketen.tv/
Co-financing institution Heartmath Education Programmes
Addressed users To Improve concentration, behaviour, performance and results
Objectives and concepts of the project

TakeTen is an Educational Consulting Company specialising in learning, development and health; heart rythm monitoring and biofeeedback for stress reduction.

Mr. Connolly is the father of an  ASD child. Stress had a strong influence on child’s  daily pattern.  TakeTen is a programme for all kids using monitored heart rhythm (through an ear sensor)  to help kids in developing self regulation  (e.g. through  breathing). A biofeedback method is used where the child is playing a game and the play continues only if the child become again calm.  The SW can be personalized.

140 schools are now using it in UK. TakeTen is now trying to use the product with parents as well (stress reduction)

Results of a trial done in UK show improvements in the children behaviour both of the SDQ subscale (emotional symptoms, conduct problems, hyperactivity, peer problems, prosocial behaviour) and of the PKBS subscale (social cooperation, social interaction, social independence). 


University of Warwick

NAME University of Warwick
Web site http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/
Addressed users Applied Signal Processing in the biomedical field
Objectives and concepts of the project

Applied Signal Processing in the biomedical field

The challenge is represented by the use of very short signals (seconds and not minutes) and to embed the processing in mobile devices.  

Another interesting aspect is to explore the non linear domain associated to different signals (in addition to the time, frequency domains).

The final objective is to find some early indicators that can allow to manage the adolescent crisis before the problems occur; it will allow to avoid or delay the use of drugs that could have long term consequences.

A trend is to move towards unobtrusive technologies (e.g. to replace the wearable sensors with cameras). 



NAME Sentireal
Web site www.sentireal.com
Partners IBM Global Entrepreneur Program, ARM Connected Community Partner Program, Northern Ireland Connected Health Innovation Centre, Momentum - The Northern Ireland ICT Federation, European Connected Health Alliance.
Addressed users Produce augmented and virtual reality tools adapted to the needs of the users.
Objectives and concepts of the project

Sentireal (www.sentireal.com) is a company developing augmented and  virtual  reality applications; the product allows smart phones, tablets to easily produce compelling augmented and virtual reality adapted to the needs of the users (the solution uses the sensors embedded in the mobile device and the location and according to this information provides useful contents derived from a content database). The product allows personalization, automatic assessment and adaptation.

They sell the product (SENSARy) to device manufactures, 3rd party SW developers, service providers. Both B2C and B2B approaches are used. SENSARy is compatible with smartphones, tablets, VR visors, headsets, AR smart glasses (like Google glasses).

Applications: Education, Guidance, Therapy; the focus is on healthcare. 

Solutions for other domains might have applicability in ASD

David is the father of 13 year old twins that have ASD.


European Connected Health Alliance

NAME European Connected Health Alliance
Web site www.echalliance.com
Addressed users To Bring People and Organizations in the health and wellbeing industry together.

Connected Health Alliance CIC’ is a not for profit organisation registered as a Community Interest Company (CIC) in Northern Ireland.  ECHAlliance is a membership organisation and aims to bring people and organisations in the health and wellbeing industry together.  ECHAlliance provides a unique partnership of organisations, companies and government bodies to transform healthcare delivery and create economic benefits.  In bringing together commercial, academic and healthcare stakeholders, ECHAlliance facilitates focused leadership for the development of connected health markets across Europe and beyond. Connected health is an umbrella term which includes eHealth, mHealth, telehealth, telecare, pHealth, digital health and other terms which promote the use of technology in health care.   

International Network of Connected Health Ecosystems - ECHAlliance supports national and regional governments to build permanent Connected Health Ecosystems, which improve health and social care at the same time as creating economic benefits. The Ecosystems are linked through the International Network and currently ecosystems operate in England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Finland, Greece, Spain, New York USA, Estonia and opening soon in Ireland, Wales, Czech Republic, Sweden, France, Canada, etc.

The principle of the ecosystems is simple: by engaging with the whole spectrum of connected health stakeholders, we can break down organisational silos to accelerate the adoption and spread of connected health solutions.    ECHAlliance recently announced a Diabetes Challenge with the International Diabetes Federation organization for cities around the world. 


Connected Health Innovation Centre - CHIC

NAME Connected Health Innovation Centre - CHIC
Web site www.ni-chic.org
Partners Invest Northern Ireland, NBEC, University of Ulster, SERG
Addressed users To align care needs with technology providers, research and clinical experience.

CHIC is a business-led research organization in the area of connected health; the mission is to align care needs with technology providers, researchers and clinical experience. Areas of interest: eHealth, telemonitoring, integrated care, assisted living, point of care diagnostics.

CHIC was formed by two organizations: SERG (Smart Environments Research Centre), a SW group operating in the areas of assisted living, integrated care, and NBEC ,  group hardware-oriented (sensors, point-of-care diagnostics).

 They participate to some projects (Simple Steps, PEAT, APPATTIC Ltd (expert in cross platform solutions).  

Among the associated Members: HSC, I+, Setoreal, Univ. Ulster, Accenture, Intelesense; in total 13 organizations.

An initial important task was the definition of the Health System Requirements: improve communication, real time diagnosis, self care opportunities, care pathways that promote independence, healthcare analytics, to assess non-value add.

 A specific attention is devoted to the people in the age group of 18 to 65, often neglected by the strategies of the healthcare systems.   

Dr Jonathan Synnott – CHIC Research & Univ of Ulster

He is involved in a project called Multilingual Mobile Platform for families with ASD children.


Collaborating Projects



Logo Armor Logo
NAME ARMOR: Advanced multi-paRametric Monitoring and analysis for diagnosis and Optimal management of epilepsy and related bRain disorders
Web site http://www.armor-project.eu
Co-financing institution European Community, FP7 Program
Start / End date Nov. 2011 – Oct. 2014
Partners Sensing & Control Systems S.L. – Spain (Coordinator); Technological Educational Institute of Mesolonghi –Greece; University of Patras – Greece; Kings College London – U.K.; AAI Scientific Cultural Services Ltd – Cyprus; INTRACOM – Greece; SYSTEMA Technologies S.A. – Greece; Karlsruher Instute fuer Technologie – Germany.
Addressed users Epileptic patients
Objectives and concepts of the project

The ARMOR project manages and analyses a large number of already acquired and new multimodal and advanced technology data from brain and body activities of epileptic patients and controls (MEG, multichannel EEG, video, ECG, GSR, EMG, etc.) with the aim to design ARMOR, a more holistic, personalized, medically efficient and economical monitoring system.

New methods and tools are developed for multimodal data pre-processing and fusion of information from various sources. Novel approaches for large scale analysis (both real-time and offline) of multi-parametric streaming and archived data are introduced to discover patterns and associations between external indicators and mental states, detect correlations among parallel observations and identify vital signs changing significantly. Moreover methods for automatically summarizing results and efficiently managing medical data are developed in the framework of the project. ARMOR incorporates models derived from data analysis based on already existing communication platform solutions emphasising on security and ethical issues and performing required adaptations to meet specifications. Special efforts are devoted in areas such as data anonymization and provision of required service.

In ARMOR monitoring is flexible and optimized for each patient and is tested in several case studies and evaluated as a wide use ambulatory monitoring tool for seizures efficient diagnosis and management including possibilities for detecting premonitory signs and feedback to the patient.

It is recognized that home-based, continuous real-time analysis could provide new opportunities for advancing understanding, diagnosis and treatment of epilepsy. Directly relevant to ARMOR is the analysis of sleep data from epileptic patients because it has the potential to reveal brain mechanisms that link epilepsy to sleep.

The analysis of existing sleep MEG data and analysis of new sleep EEG data allow to advance the understanding of sleep as a physiological process



Logo ASC - Inclusion
NAME ASC-Inclusion: Integrated Internet-based Environment for Social Inclusion of Children with Autism Spectrum Conditions (ASC).
Web site http://www.asc-inclusion.eu
Co-financing institution European Community, FP7 Program
Start / End date Nov. 2011 – Oct. 2014
Partners Technische Universität München – Germany (Coordinator); University of Cambridge - United Kingdom; Bar Ilan University- Israel; Compedia – Israel; Università degli Studi di Genova – Italy; Karolinska Institutet – Sweden; Autism-Europe – Belgium.
Addressed users Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders
Objectives and concepts of the project

The main goal of the project is to develop a computer software program that will assist children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to understand and express emotions through facial expressions, tone-of-voice and body gestures.

The software will assist them to understand and interact with other people and as a result will increase their inclusion in society. Children with Autism experience difficulties in:

  • recognizing, understanding and responding appropriately to other people’s facial expressions, tone-of-voice and body gestures;
  • understanding and expressing their own emotions.

The ASC-Inclusion software provides a tool that empowers children with Autism to develop an understanding of facial expressions and emotions with minimal assistance. The tool will help to reduce the risk of their social exclusion. The software is personalizable.

The software uses state-of-the-art technologies in terms of analysis of facial expressions, vocal intonations and gestures (using standard microphones and webcams) and allows:

  • Recognition of emotion and Training of the children in recognizing own and others’ facial expressions, tone-of-voice and body gestures through interactive games, text communication, animations, video and audio clips;
  • Personalization according to children’s individual needs;
  • Support to professionals, parents and carers with information, reports on children’s progress and forums to interact with other professionals and carers.

The software will also assist professionals and family members to provide more efficient support to people with Autism.


Validation in three locations (United Kingdom, Sweden, Israel) with 20 children per location.

A 1st commercial version will be available in the last part of 2014.



Logo Care Toy
Web site http://www.caretoy.eu
Co-financing institution European Community, FP7 Program
Start / End date Nov. 2011 – Oct. 2014
Partners Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna – Italy (Coordinator); Fondazione Stella Maris – Italy; ST Microelectronics srl - Italy; Univerza v Ljubljani –Slovenia; Universitaet Hamburg – Germany; Fonden for Helene Elsass Center – Denmark; Marketing Research & Development SPA –Italy.
Addressed users Infants in the first year of life affected by stroke and other neurological conditions
Objectives and concepts of the project

Preterm infants are the infants at highest risk for neurological damage. Currently they have rehabilitation sessions few times a week in rehabilitation centres but according to basic neuroscience it would be necessary to provide them with an early, intensive and multiaxial intervention.

The aim of the project is to promote early intervention in the first year of life and to devise therapies and technologies that can be administered at home by caregivers and telemonitored by rehabilitation staff. CareToy enhances the clinical effectiveness of the therapy while reducing the cost.

The smart system composed of different modules:

  1. an instrumented baby gym (1m x 1m) with mechatronic hanging toys, so that the infants’ actions on the gym can be measured and stimulated
  2. a vision module (5 screens), for measuring and promoting infants’ attention and gaze movements and
  3. a sensorised mat for measuring and promoting postural control.

Two versions are available: CARE-H for home and CARE-C for the hospital (this last one is a more sophisticated version including 6 cameras eye tracking system).

CareToy allows the measurements and stimulation of three main functions:

  • infants’ grasping forces,
  • infants’ gaze,
  • infants’ postural control.

Each module incorporates built-in signal processor, memory and wireless communication. The home-based system remotely communicates with the rehabilitation staff for monitoring and assessing the rehabilitation techniques. Another key element of the project is the modular approach: the system will be composed by several modules for performing different kinds of rehabilitation tasks; each module composing the system can work independently or combined to the others. The idea is that families with infants who need rehabilitation can bring the CareToy system at home and let the infant perform specific tasks tailored on the infant’s needs.


The effectiveness of home rehabilitation based on the CareToy system will be validated by clinical trials on 108 preterm infants with different brain lesions (54 for the experimental group and 54 for the control group). Validation will be done in Italy and Denmark (3 weeks tests per child).

6 CARE-H prototypes were built (3 for Italy and 3 for Denmark) + 2 CARE-C. CareToy system has been certified as “medical device” – class 2A.



Logo Early Autism
NAME Supporting an early autism spectrum disorders diagnosis through the support vector machine approach
Web site  
Co-financing institution Italian Ministry of Health and by Tuscany Region with the grant "Young Researcher"
Start / End date January 2013-December 2015
Partners IRCCS Stella Maris Foundation- Pisa, Italy; Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics INFN- Pisa Section; Department of Medical Sciences, Section of Psychiatry, University of Udine, Italy.
Addressed users Children of 18-30 months with suspected ASD
Objectives and concepts of the project

An early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI) represents an effective instrument to improve the outcome of children affected by ASD. The prerequisite for an EIBI is an early ASD identification (before 24-30 months); however, the attempt to diagnose ASD children before the age of 24 months is hampered by various factors.

With its non-invasive nature, MRI could be used in clinical practice as part of the comprehensive medical assessment of ASD patients even if this role of structural MRI is still a matter of debate (as an example the guidelines of the American Academy of Neurology and Child Neurology Society judged the MRI scanning as a procedure not recommended in the standard clinical evaluation of ASD).

In the last few years, post-processing methods based on MRI acquisitions have been developed and implemented with the aim of obtaining diagnostic models for ASD and consequently to improve the behavioral assessment of the disorder. Novel classification methods are based on machine-learning techniques. Among the volume-based classification methods, there are the Support Vector Machines (SVM).

The project aims to test the hypothesis that SVM-MRI is able to detect the ASD brain structural profile in the toddler-age and that could therefore be used to provide additional diagnostic value beyond that of behavioral criteria. This project is the first study which aims to examine the distinctive brain ASD pattern detected by SVM in toddlers with a provisional diagnosis of ASD compared with sex, age and non-verbal IQ matched controls. In this way, a possible biomarker for ASD early identification could be detected.

In the study the anatomic brain structures of at least 30 ASD toddlers will be compared to 30 sex, age and non-verbal IQ (NVIQ) matched controls, using SVM approach.

Even if encouraging results will be provided by the current project, caution is required in interpretation and dissemination of findings, in order to avoid false promise or sensational media information for a technology that is still far from substituting the traditional diagnostic approach.



Logo Prima Pietra
NAME Research, integration, enhancement, assistance and education program for autism services and rehabilitation technologies
Web site www.progettoprimapietra.it
Co-financing institution Regione Sicilia, Italy – Regione Basilicata, Italy
Start / End date  
Partners National Research Council of Italy; Fondazione Stella Maris – Pisa; Fondazione Stella Maris Mediterraneo; Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria G. Martino – Messina; Azienda Sanitaria Provinciale-Palermo; Azienda Sanitaria Locale – Matera; Azienda Sanitaria Locale – Potenza.
Addressed users Children with ASD
Objectives and concepts of the project

The lack of reliable biological markers for identifying ASD has led researchers to concentrate on behavioral anomalies in order to detect early signs of autism. Several researches show that there are reliable signs of ASD by the end of the first year of life in the domain of social orienting (less orienting to social stimuli as name prompt and faces).

The results of meta-analyses demonstrated an overall beneficial effect of positive parenting upon the functional outcomes of young children with developmental disabilities (parent-mediated early intervention).

Emerging technologies may contribute to the development of an integrated ecological assessment system, to the personalization of the treatment, to let the parents be “co-therapists” at home, to realize an intense treatment.

PRIMA PIETRA intends to develop and promote a novel concept of early screening, investigation and treatment of ASD introducing new methodological and technological tools for the early personalized and continuous assessment and rehabilitation through care, clinical research and telerehabilitation. It includes:

  • Early screening: controlled provision of a very early remote risk assessment web-based platform administered by the pediatricians in the health account (18th month);
  • Early intervention: the application of Early Start Denver Model (ESDM ) through a personalized approach;
  • Tele-rehabilitation: controlled provision through an innovative remote platform of an early intervention based on ESDM at home involving parents in the therapeutic process during their daily activities.

In the home-based treatment PRIMA PIETRA follows a personalized intervention where a functional modelling platform provides integrated, standardised, multi-modal clinical, behavioural and physiological data by means of the measure of behavioural and/or physiological heterogeneity through ICT-based biomedical non invasive instruments (wearable and remote microsystems for physiological (ECG) and behavioural (activity) tracking) and relates them to risk factors, treatment response, and/or outcome

First results:

SCREENING: Through the PRIMA PIETRA methodology the mean age of the diagnosis has been reduced from 38 months to 31.6 months and the minimun age of the diagnosis from 22 months to 17 months.

TREATMENT (17 children):

Mean ADOS : from 16.8 to 11.2; Griffith’s QS: from 59.5 to 88.2; Griffith’s Pers /Soc: from 16.4 to 38.6; Griffith’s Language: from 13.1 to 37.7.


17 children were treated (15 male, 2 female; mean age: 31 months.

A tablet PC (an i-pad ) is used for the training of the parents and for the their communication with the remote therapist.

A previous version based on Windows was considered difficult to use; it forced to move towards the i-pad based platform.



Logo Stamppp
NAME Science and the Treatment of Autism: A Multimedia Package for Parents and Professionals
Web site www.stamppp.com
Co-financing institution European Commission – LEONARDO (part of the Lifelong Learning Programme)
Start / End date STAMPPPII: Launch on Sept. 20, 2013

The project went through various phases:

  • original STAMPPP: UK, Germany, Norway, Spain;
  • STAMPPPII: UK, Sweden, Italy, Netherlands, Iceland.
Addressed users Parents of children with autism (and professionals working with these families)
Objectives and concepts of the project

In 2012 OPM ( U.S. Office of Personnel Management) evaluated the status of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for children with autism and concluded that there is now sufficient evidence to categorize ABA as medical therapy rather than purely educational. In June 2012 the 60,000-member American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) publicly endorsed the use of ABA treatments.

STAMPPP intends to establish a solid base for ABA applied to autism (ABA autism guidelines) where:

  • ABA knowledge is combined with ASD knowledge,
  • functional assessment and functional analysis are individually tailored,
  • Data-based decision are made.

Then on top of this base STAMPPP developed 10 different training modules (Natural Environment Training, Discrete Trial Training, Stimulus Control Procedures, Shaping & Chaining, Verbal Behavior Systems; Pivotal Response Training, Early Intensive Behavioral Interventions, Incidental Teaching, Precision Teaching, Other individually tailored Procedures).

On the contrary of North America – where training is widespread – the situation in Europe is still unsatisfactory

In this regard, the STAMPPP Project intends to develop and translate into European languages and cultures the SIMPLE STEPS multimedia package for parents of children diagnosed with ASD and professionals working with these families.

The multimedia program uses video material in the form of parental testimonies, animations, demonstrations and textural material to teach the principles of Applied Behaviour Analysis.

The program helps parents become proficient in delivering home programs for their children and to coordinate these learning opportunities for the child with those provided within a school.

Of course, parents still need to be supervised by a professional trained in Applied Behaviour Analysis according to the international standards.

An on line self-help teaching tool “to becoming a parent-therapist” was created (www.simplestepsautism.com).

Translations in German, Norwegian, and Spanish are already available.


Cost Effectiveness Analysis – Some data

  • Annual costs per person £36,507 to £97,863;
  • Lifetime cost per person £2.9 - 4.7 million;
  • Aggregate annual cost in the UK is £27.5 billion;
  • Cost for ABA-based intervention
    • Shadow education annual: £20,000 x 2-3 years
    • Not needed, if trained staff were employed by Health and Education providers.

Experts will be formed and certified (Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®)) and Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst® (BCaBA®))


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The Michelangelo Project is co-funded from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° #288241