Autism Wristband That Predicts Aggressive Outbursts in Children With 84 Percent Accuracy Created by Scientists

Scientists have created a wearable device they say can predict aggressive outbursts in people with autism.

Worn on the wrist, the tech detects signs of stress by monitoring heart rate, skin temperature, sweating and arm movements. The makers say it can forecast an outburst of aggression 60 seconds before it happens, with 84 percent accuracy.

To develop the device, researchers at Northeastern University studied 20 children with autism prone to aggressive episodes over a period of 87 hours. They gave them biosensors to wear, and noted changes in their behavior and physiological changes. The team looked at the data to see how the children's bodies changed before they became aggressive.

Creator Matthew Goodwin, director of the Computational Behavioral Science Laboratory at Northeastern University, explained in a statement: "Their [some individuals with autism] arousal levels are already at the ceiling.

"It takes very little to cross the tipping point."

"If we could give caregivers advance notice, it would prevent them from getting caught off guard and potentially allow them to relax the individual and make sure everyone in the environment is safe," Goodwin said.

He continued: "Families with children who act aggressively tell us that they don't know what causes these outbursts, and they're fearful it could happen anytime, so they self-impose house arrest.

"They don't go to the movies. They don't go to the grocery store with their kids. They don't go to parks."

Cute smiling boy in sponge ball pool covering eyes with balls
A stock image of a child playing in a ball pit. Scientists have created a device which monitors physiological changes in people with autism. Getty

"Some parents say that even if we can only give them 60 percent accuracy, that's better than chance, which is what they've got now. They say that would be priceless," said Goodwin.

The equipment is 84 percent accurate because of the limitations of having a relatively small data set, he explained. Next, the team will test 240 people with autism who deal with aggression, in the hope of honing that percentage.

"As our data set grows and we use more sophisticated machine learning models, I think we might get more than 60 seconds," he said.

Around 1 in 59 children in the U.S. are thought to have the condition, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the prevalence of the disorder in the U.S.

Autism U.S. Statista
The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in the U.S. Statista

Autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, is an umbrella term for conditions where people behave and communicate in ways different to those who are neurotypical. This can encompass speech, nonverbal communication and social skills and see them demonstrate repetitive behavior.

Autism is a spectrum disorder, meaning each individual has different strengths and challenges, according to Autism Speaks. While some can live independently and are highly skilled, others may experience severe challenges and require significant day-to-day support.

This article was updated to include an infographic.