ICT to Support Dental Care of Children with Autism: An Exploratory Study
The dental health of children with autism presents many challenges, since they usually perceive sensory experiences differently and have problems accepting unknown social contexts. In a dental care setting, there are many strong sound-visual stimulations that are not experienced in any other setting. This usually upsets a patient with autism, often forcing dentists to administer chemical sedation in order to carry out dental work. Recently, many technology-enhanced systems and apps have been proposed to help people with autism adapt and cope with distressing situations. However, few studies have attempted to exploit ICT to simplify dental care in people with autism. This study explores the potential of personalized digital tools to help children with autism become familiar with dental care procedures and environments and to learn how to perform proper oral hygiene at home. To this aim, we carried out a 3-month exploratory study involving a multidisciplinary team of researchers, developers, dentists, psychologist, parents and ten children with autism observed under natural conditions during their first dental care cycle. The results appear to confirm the potential of technology for reducing anxiety in professional settings, increasing children’s wellbeing and safety. The main contribution of this paper is the detailed account of this exploratory study and the discussion of the results obtained. Moreover, we outline the user requirements of an accessible and customizable multimodal platform to help dentists and families facilitate ADS children’s dental care according to the methodology described here.
KeywordsAutism Dental care ICT tools
We thank Prof. Maria Rita Giuca and Dr. Francesca Pardossi for their scientific contribution to the project. We also thank all the children with autism and their caregivers who took part of this study.
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