Cushii is a form of autistic therapy. It is a backpack that applies pressure to create a hugging sensation for autistic children when they are in an overwhelming situation that can trigger meltdowns. The backpack is also paired with an app that collects data and alerts the parent or guardian when the backpack has been activated. Through GPS tracking within the backpack, parents can locate their child whenever they go missing due to their mental breakdowns.
Nearly half of all children with autism will run away and potentially go missing at least once before their 17th birthday due to having a mental breakdown, according to a study by the American Academy of Pediatrics. There is a lack of smart technology to help and enhance the everyday life of children with autism as well aid their parents or guardians.
Research and Insights
We gathered our research and insights through interviewing scholars as well as people with autism. The information we acquired gave us a better understanding of how meltdowns are triggered through overwhelming situations and the current technology that exist for autistic children.
How Might We?
After synthesizing our research and insights, we came up with some "how might we?" questions to turn the challenge into opportunities for design.
We created personas to empathize and understand the users. This helped us to develop our solution as well as focus our design decision based upon the needs and goals of the user.
Insight: A new study in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics has pegged the total lifetime cost of supporting an individual that is on the Autism spectrum at an astonishing $1.4 million in the United States.
Insight: If there is also intellectual disability, the total rises even more, to $2.4 million. Parents are constantly spending money on their autistic child which is why the primary target market are parents/guardians of children with autism.
We created an experience to get a better understanding of how an autistic child thinks and feels during an overwhelming situation. The map also helped us understand pain points which expanded the opportunity space.
Insight: Meltdowns are a reaction to a build up of actions/things that are beyond the child's control. Meltdowns can often be mistaken as temper tantrums. The difference is temper tantrums are a choice and can be stopped whenever the child gets what they want.
We created sketches to explore the optimal placement of straps and activation sensors for sensational comfort and easy but well hidden access to activate pressure. The exploration of the straps is key in creating deep touch pressure. Deep touch pressure has calming benefits for people suffering from chronic stress, anxiety pain and unrest. By helping to calm these feelings similar to the feelings experienced in a mental breakdown , deep touch pressure improves the ability to cope with stress and anxieties, giving the child more control over their lives, hence allowing for a better quality of life.
We decided to develop an app for the parents to pair with the backpack. The app gives data on the child's mental breakdown as well as their location. We created wireframes to organize the information architecture and the features of the app.
We conducted user testing to get feedback on the visuals and interactions of the app.
Cushii is a backpack that applies pressure to create a hugging and soothing sensation for an autistic children when they are in an overwhelming situation that is causing a meltdown. The backpack is also paired with an app that collects data and alerts the parent or guardian when the backpack has been activated. It also gives the parent or guardian information on the child's mental breakdown and their location. This helps them locate their child easily just in case the child runs off due to their mental breakdown.
Features of the App
A map to show the location of the child at all times and where the backpack has been activated
Data visualization of the frequency of activations as well as the time, date, duration and location
Bluetooth connection to backpack
Features of the Backpack
Hidden zipper for activation
Hidden emergency pocket that stores instruction to activate the backpack as well as storage for the child's important medical documents and emergency contact
Self inflation device for pressure
Sensors to stop inflation
Extra removable straps for added pressure across chest and waist
Revised Experience Map
After creating our solution, we revised the experience map to reflect the feelings, thoughts and behavior of an autistic child in an overwhelming situation with the implementation of our product.