Tobias Sonne

Assistive Technologies to Empower Children with ADHD: Conceptual Framework and Technological Solutions

Research output: ResearchPh.D. thesis

HCI researchers have for several years explored the potentials of using technology to empower people with various disabilities and deficits in dealing with the challenges of their condition. The exploration initially focused on designing technologies for people with outwardly visible physical impairments and disabilities, however, in recent years HCI researchers have begun to focus on assistive technologies for other patient groups and less visible impairments, e.g., people with cognitive or mental disorders. This movement has led to the design and development of several successful assistive technologies for a broad range of patient groups struggling with e.g., Bipolar Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and anxiety. However, only very limited research within HCI has focused on assistive technologies for the most common diagnosis for children and teens worldwide – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The prevalence of ADHD is approximately 5-7% for all school age children and 2-3% for adults. The disorder is associated with both social and academic impairments, increased risk of criminal convictions, as well as poor quality of life. This signals a great loss for society, and an even greater loss for the individual with ADHD, as this handicap will affect them for the rest of their lives. ADHD is a major societal challenge and the annual estimated societal cost of ADHD (for children) has been estimated to be up to $52.4 billion in the United States alone.
The research objective of this dissertation has therefore been to contribute to the limited research on assistive technologies for the ADHD domain, in order to address the societal and personal challenges associated with ADHD. A design framework for the ADHD domain was developed through interdisciplinary collaborations with ADHD domain professionals including child psychiatrists, psychologists, teachers, and medical doctors. Furthermore, empirical studies, training and hands on experiences in caregiving for groups of children with ADHD added to the creation of the ADHD Design Framework. The ADHD Design Framework identifies central deficits and challenges associated with ADHD, provides specific design strategies, and visualizes a map of the design space. Together, these three components constitute the ADHD Design Framework and provide a lingua franca for HCI researchers in addition to establishing an initial foundation for researching and designing novel assistive technologies for people with ADHD.
Utilizing the ADHD Design Framework, three central ADHD deficits (attention-, emotional-, and sleep deficits) were addressed through the development of three novel research experiments that were all evaluated in real world contexts: CASTT, ChillFish, and MOBERO: 1) CASTT addresses attention deficits, and is a mobile intervention system that through wearable sensors detects attention lapses and has shown promise for assisting children with ADHD to regain attention in these classroom situations. 2) ChillFish addresses emotional deficits, and is a calming breathing exercise disguised as a biofeedback game that has successfully shown to calm down and reduce stress in adults and children with ADHD. Finally, 3) MOBERO addresses sleep deficits. MOBERO is a mobile application that assists families of children with ADHD to establish healthy morning and bedtime routines. MOBERO has showed to significantly improve sleep quality and reduce ADHD symptoms in children with ADHD.

Through these three research experiments and the ADHD Design Framework, this dissertation argues that assistive technologies for the ADHD domain hold potential for both novel research and for empowering people with ADHD.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages230
StateSubmitted - 30 Sep 2016

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