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Verbal Vest

Enabling Engineering

The Need 

A four-year-old who has nonverbalautism and impaired vision,requires a device for auditorycommunication that is durable,effective, and wearable. The aidesat the For His Children orphanagereport that Hector is unable toverbalize his basic wants or needs,such as “I need to go to thebathroom,” or, “I want to go outside.”The child needs a solution that allows him to convey basic information about his current state quickly and easily. Since sensory stimulation can greatly benefit children with autism, a secondary objective was to provide sensory stimulation through the device. Given his rough-and-tumble personality, it is important that any intervention be sturdy and waterproof.

The Project

In collaboration with the NU Physical Therapy department, the team created a pouch that attaches to an autism pressure vest that the child was known to wear. Touch-sensitive plates were placed in this pouch and wired to an Arduino and speaker, which were housed in a pack connecting to his belt. The device fulfilled its primary objective by allowing any user to communicate six different messages using six different buttons. The device’s use will be monitored by the Physical Therapy department at Northeastern University, which receives usage data recorded and sent by the vest’s Arduino.

Current Status

This project is complete and a prototype was delivered to the orphanage in Ecuador in March 2017.