Assessing Social Engagement & Anxiety of Autistic Children using Continuous Speech Analysis

Student: Marisa Cameron, 2016-2017

Sponsor: Christian Poellabauer, Notre Dame, IN

Social deficits are typical characteristics of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. The mental wellbeing of parents with an autistic child is often affected by their child’s limited personal connection and perceived social deficiencies to family and friends, often leading to stress and depression for both parties. Additionally, studies have determined that children with autism suffer significantly more from phobias, obsession, compulsion, and motor/vocal tics. The goal of this project is to create a wearable device that is an assessment tool that measures the emotions of an autistic child during social interaction. Unlike others, data can be collected non-intrusively from this device (since children would not need to be in a laboratory setting) and relies mostly on speech. The device would record when the child speaks, which would then be analyzed to detect various emotions. The data can then be offloaded by parents and physicians to inform them when a child spoke, thus indicating social engagement, as well as, the level of anxiety during each of those events, thus determining whether his/her experience was positive or negative. This data analysis will allow parents to more confidently expose a child to new social situations without continuous parental supervision.