Anxiety is prevalent in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and can negatively impact physical and mental health. Self-awareness of anxiety signs is a key barrier to success of anxiety interventions for many children. To address this, we conducted a randomized controlled trial to assess if the Anxiety Meter, a wearable, real-time anxiety detection technology can improve awareness of anxiety symptoms and the initiation of relaxation techniques in children with ASD. Twenty-eight children with ASD were trained on the use of the Anxiety Meter and taught a diaphragmatic breathing relaxation technique over three visits. On the fourth visit, participants were randomized to either receive feedback of their anxiety level or no feedback from the Anxiety Meter while completing a stress-eliciting task (public speaking) and asked to engage in deep breathing if anxious. Feedback from the Anxiety Meter was associated with increased likelihood of initiating deep breathing in response to anxiety. Although these results are limited by the relatively small sample size, they support the feasibility of using a wearable device and real-time feedback to improve anxiety symptom awareness.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02160691. Registered 5 June 2014, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02160691