The Hampshire Autistic Society is creating a smartphone app to help people with autism communicate and interact positively in stressful situations.
App developer Crimson Tide has won the contract to develop the app, which is also to be part-funded by the company along with its partner, Premier Telecom.
The app will include an electronic version of an ‘alert card’, a yellow identity card that gives people with autism a way to alert other people to their condition if faced with a stressful incident or situation involving the police or emergency services.
Hampshire Autistic Society’s project lead, Karen Templeton-Mepstead, said the app was in many ways an alternative to the paper version of the card: “The idea came from one of the users who said he didn’t want to carry around the card in case someone looked in his wallet.
“Young people aren’t so keen on carrying the card, but the app is on their phone so they can show it to who they want.”
She added that most young people have smartphones, so it seemed like a great way to target them.
Other app functionalities include strategies on how to remain calm if having anxiety, as well as a document store holding the user’s ‘autism passport’, which contains crucial background information regarding the user’s condition.
This includes the impact their autism has on them, what can be done to help them stay calm and how to engage with them in what can be difficult and anxious situations.
“On the back of that we also have an anxiety chart a bit like a traffic light. For example, if it’s amber, that could give them a prompt to go outside and have a little walk, or red could prompt them to call a relevant person for help”, said Templeton-Mepstead.
The passport can, with the permission of the user, be linked into the Hampshire Constabulary’s Safety Net System so officers can easily access information that could help the individual cope with the situation.
It was launched, along with the alert card, as part of Hampshire’s Autism Alert Programme, a joint initiative between Hampshire police and the Hampshire Autistic Society.
The Hampshire-based charity plans to pilot the app early next year and aim to launch it on 2 April – World Autism Awareness Day.
“We want people with autism to try it and give us feedback on how it works,” Templeton-Mepstead said.
The autism alert programme is currently Hampshire-based, but Templeton-Mepstead said they would like to roll it out nationally. “We want to show them how great this project is. We want to get to the point where showing the yellow card is like showing your Tesco clubcard; everyone knows what it is.”