Working with Madeline Landis-Croft and Kevin Swimmer, I created a self-stimulation wristwatch designed for people who suffer from sensory processing disorders such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is intended to be used by those who want to have a discreet item readily available to fdget with when they get overwhelmed by sensory input. It is an analog watch with standard minute and hour hands and a small metal ball that rolls around the outer edge of the watch face so the user can subtly stim with the mechanism without disturbing others. This ball is magnetized, and the movement of the ball in a circular motion generates energy to power the watch mechanism. The material of the strap will be customizable, allowing the consumer to choose between food-safe silicone for those who are calmed by chewing, a buttery leather for those who prefer smooth and soft surfaces, and a metal chain for those who would like additional stimming options.
Our process began with the identification of a number of health-related issues deserving attention; through conversation and researching existing products, we decided to focus on the need to comfort those with autism experiencing sensory overstimulation. People with Autism Spectrum Disorder often have difficulty processing and acting upon information received through the senses; we found that sensory overload was alleviated for many by being able to control their own sensory input. In several interviews and a survey of fifty adults with ASD and many more related to someone with the disorder, we found that sensitivity to noise, touch, and light were most common.
Quotes from our interviews and survey:
"What is needed is aid items that are easily mistaken for other everyday objects. Things that stick out attract attention, and we typically avoid that."
"There is lots of focus on helping autistic children but not adults. Many autistic adults learn to fake it, but that often creates stress for them."
"I am self-conscious, I don't get to use my fidgets a lot outside of my house like the stuffed animal one or the playdough one so all I'm left with is picking at my body."
Adults with autism most often experience sensory integration problems in public settings, yet though 'stimming' (short for self-stimulating) is a helpful coping mechanism, many people feel self-conscious about it. Some resort to self-harm, like picking at their skin.
Existing products abound for children, but their aesthetic and lack of discretion limits their ability to help adults. We decided to make a comforting, discreet, affordable design to be used in public by adults and teens with sensory processing disorder.
We made rough prototypes and conducted preliminary user testing, then quantified our designs by comparing them to our design objectives. The watch came out on top, and so we began form development and continued user testing.