KINGWOOD PRESS RELEASE
NOVEL RESEARCH PROJECT ON SOUND SENSITIVITY IN AUTISM WINS FUNDING
Researchers from Brunel and Cardiff Universities are to work with autism support services provider Kingwood to explore whether state-of-the-art noise cancellation technology can be used to 'tune out’ everyday sounds that many people with autism find distracting or disturbing. The research is to be funded through a Bob and Suzanne Wright Trailblazer Award from leading US autism research and advocacy charity Autism Speaks.
Difficulties in processing sensory stimuli such as sight, touch, taste, smell and particularly hearing are a common but poorly understood aspect of autism, affecting up to 90% of those with a diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. Whatever the cause, sensory difficulties can seriously impact quality of life, making simple everyday experiences such as a visit to a supermarket or a normal day at school fraught with difficulty. Typically those most affected are forced to wear ear protectors when outside their home.
The idea of exploring whether noise cancellation could help people with autism was sparked by a radio report about technology being developed by Brunel University to cancel out the sound of a dentist’s drill handpiece. Kingwood’s suggestion that similar technology might help people with autism was enthusiastically taken up by Brunel research team leader Dr Mark Atherton, with Prof Sue Leekam and Dr David McGonigle of Cardiff University’s Wales Autism Research Centre coming on board to contribute their own research expertise in sensory issues in autism. This combination of engineering, research and specialist support skills is still a novelty in the field of autism research.
The new study, which began on 1 May and will run for a year, will examine whether selectively tuning out the varying sounds that each individual finds challenging is feasible, and will lead on to larger studies that will demonstrate the potential effectiveness of a personal and portable noise cancellation device.
Sue Osborn, Chief Executive of Kingwood, said: As autism service providers we know how disabling sound sensitivity can be. Whilst laboratory research is telling us more about autism every day, the time it takes to turn laboratory findings into effective remedies is typically very long. In this new technology we saw an opportunity to do something that might help people now and are delighted that this is being put to the test.
Dr Mark Atherton of Brunel University said: Transferring technology out of the lab is a challenge we embrace as engineers, and this project is particularly interesting as it involves individual perceptions of sound and working with colleagues from other disciplines.
Dr David McGonigle of Cardiff University said: Sensory issues are a neglected aspect of autism, yet they can significantly impact upon independence and quality of life. While studying the mechanisms that underlie hypersensitivities in autism is important, it is also crucial to focus on translating basic science into real-world solutions. This project combines expertise across a number of disciplines.
For further information please contact:
General enquiries about the project: Hilary Gilfoy on +44 (0)1491 612218 or at email@example.com