ITP Spring Show 2009
Sunday, May 10, 2-6pm & Monday, May 11, 5-9 pm

Alexander Reeder
Diana Costa

Sophie’s Pet

Sophie's Pet provides sensory feedback in the form of vibration to improve self-regulation of sitting posture while also providing calming sensory input for children with autism.

Developing Assistive Technology

Sophie Pet's was developed specifically for children with autism who demonstrate poor posture at a desk or table. Individuals with autism often have reduced postural control (Molloy, Dietriech, & Bhattacharya, 2003; Minshew, KiBum, Jones, & Furman, 2009). This project combines feedback stimulus indicating improper posture with sensory stimulation to facilitate muscle contraction through the back, while simultaneously organizing the sensory system. The goal of the project is, first, to increase the ability of the student to correct her posture independent of external cues from individuals in her environment, such as the teacher or teacher’s aide. Second, the goal is to reduce the frequency of improper sitting posture.

The design of Sophie's Pet is as follows: two sensors are used to detect postural deviation. One sensor is placed at the base of the spine, near the sacrum, and the other sensor is at the upper thoracic level, between the shoulder blades. When the sensors recognize a deviation beyond a specified threshold it triggers vibration. Three vibrators are placed along the middle of the back at the upper thoracic level, the lower thoracic level, and the lower lumbar region. A series of three vibration pulses lasting one second each from the top two vibrators indicates to the student that postural deviation has been detected for the past 5 seconds. If posture is not corrected the pulses are repeated every 5 seconds until posture is corrected. A second series of pulses was programmed to reduce the possibility of purposefully leaning forward while seeking out the vibration input. The second series of pulses is at a lower, more preferred intensity and includes all three vibrators. This vibration occurs on a variable schedule ranging from every three to ten minutes and occurs if proper posture is maintained throughout that time. The equipment is attached to a cloth panel and placed inside of a sweater with a zipper front. The purpose of this design is to make the device blend in easily with the typical classroom environment.