LOCEN Research: Autism and pervasive developmental disorders



External dedicated web-page: +me:motivating children with Autism Spectrum Disorders to interact socially through the use of Transitional Wearable Companions.

Authors: Beste Ozcan, Valerio Sperati, Tania Moretta, Daniele Caligiore, Laura Romano, Gianluca Baldassarre (ISTC), Alessandro Medda, Simone Scaffaro (INI Villa Dante)

Topic and its relevance. Autism Spectrum Disorder - ASD-  are a set of neurodevelopmental conditions characterised by the impairment, in varying degrees, of three basic areas forthe psychic development of children: the social interaction; the communication (both verbal and not); the repertoire of activities and interests. This project is direced to realise an interactive wearable device, the "+me",  that can supports and motivates social interaction, and contributes to develop communication skills, in children with ASD. 

Questions and goals. Which sensors and interfaces should the device have to best support and motivate autistic children, characterised by a peculiar sensation processing, to communicate with the outer world? Which sensors and interfaces should the device have to allow caregivers to best engage and communicate with autistic children? Which tests can be carried out to evaluate, select and develop the features of the wearable? 

Methods. The +me is an interactive soft-touching pillow endowed with sensors (e.g., touch sensors), actuators (e.g., sounds and lights) and a tablet wi-fi inteface. The wearable feaures will be tested with ASD children, together with specialised therapists (Simone Scaffaro and Alessandro Medda from Insitute INI Villa Dante Division) and parents, to best develop its features.  

Funding. Since July 2018 the project received funding from Regione Lazio (Progetto di Gruppo di Ricerca finanziato ai sensi della L.R. Lazio 13/08).
Project title: "+me: motivating children with autism spectrum disorders to communicate and socially interact through interactive soft wearable devices".
Project duration: 26 months. 


  • 2016: realisation of the final prototype of a wearable device, called "+me".  Currently we produced three samples of this prototype: one is at ISTC-CNR (for test/debugging), two are at INI Villa Dante (for experimentation). 

  • November 2016- February 2017:  we started a preliminary test of +me on 15 typical children, aged between 10 and 34 months. Purposes of this experiment are: 1) to verify the attractiveness of the +me for the children; 2)  to identify the age span where +me is more effective in motivating children; 3) to collect data for a successive comparison with ASD children.

  • March 2018: a paper describing the results of preliminary experimentation has been submitted to International Conference on Autism ICA 2018.  



Current collaborations.

  • Rehabilitation center INI, Divisione Villa Dante (via Roma 298, Guidonia, Roma) contributed to the development of +me concept and experimental design.  Researchers involved: M.N. Aliberti (Child Neuropsychiatrist MD PhD); S. Scaffaro (neurodevelopmental therapist).
  • Department of Human Neuroscience, Section of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, University of Rome "Sapienza" (via dei Sabelli 108, Rome), manifested the interest for +me experimentation. Researchers involved: V. Guidetti (Professor of Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, Coordinator of Postgraduate School in Child and Adolescent Neuropsychiatry, University of Rome "Sapienza"), C. Sogos (Child Neuropsychiatrist MD PhD).


Conclusions. The wearable represents a higly-innovative device with a notatble potential to support and motivate child-caregiver and child-parent interactions based on the peculiarities of the autistic child cognition. Empirical tests are needed to validate such potential. 

+ME prototype:
Videos and pics about the current +me prototype can be found here: www.plusme.it

The prototype has been: 


Relevant resources for Autism:

Telling the story of an autistic child through photos (in Italian): Photos