Emergency Chat App Helps Nonverbal People Converse with Police and Other First Responders
After finding himself completely unable to speak during a crisis, a computer science student with autism developed a smartphone app that can speak for him. He hopes the app will be useful to others in similar situations.
People on the spectrum sometimes become overwhelmed by a great deal of sensory input. For those that are verbal, the stress that these situations cause can also lead to anxiety attacks that make speaking difficult, if not impossible. Other people naturally become concerned and may ask a lot of questions as they try to find ways to help. Unfortunately, this can place additional stress on the person with autism because they are unable to answer. This can worsen the attack.
Computer science student Jeroen De Busser experienced just this type of situation and ended up completely unable to communicate with the people around him. Although the situation was painful for him, it inspired him to use his programming skills to create an app he could share with others.
The person having an anxiety attack opens the app and can then hand it to someone near by. It displays an overview of the person’s issues and needs. The default message explains that the person cannot speak, but can communicate through texts. Users can customize this message to explain their own needs and circumstances. For example, a person with a trachestomy downloaded the app and created a message explaining how to provide assistance in an emergency. The app also provides a texting function that allows the two users to communicate.