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The personal site of Jamie Knight, an autistic web developer, speaker and mountain biker who is never seen far from his plush sidekick Lion. View the Archive

Topics: Autism Development

iOS Apps, Autism and Anxiety.

Many people on the autism spectrum suffer from Anxiety. The feeling that things are wrong, out of place or that something bad could happen. Often the anxiety can be brought on by feeling out of control, or not knowing how to deal with a specific situation.

I get anxious often, and in order to better deal with specific situations have taken to adapting mainstream iOS apps to fit my needs. In this post, i’m going to write about two adaptions which reduce my anxiety around way finding and location.

How do I get home?

Here’s the scenario, your in the office on a Friday afternoon and the team is heading out for drinks with a colleague who is leaving. You like the person who is leaving and would like to join in with wishing them on their way, however the pub which has been chosen is not known to you.

For me, this situation would trigger intense anxiety, fears about getting lost, or not managing the situation well. If I am having a bad day, I may also manage to get all the way to assuming that if I do go, and I don’t cope I would be fired or something. Normally I slam the brakes on before then though. (see, worry chains)!

In this scenario I have two approaches which have worked well. The first, is to “make it someone else’s problem”. I am fortunate enough to have very understanding colleagues who are often willing to help me find my way home (or travel back to a known station with me). I also have a partner who is willing to come into the city to pick me up should I feel overwhelmed.

However, both of these solutions are not true independence. I would prefer an independent solution, and this is where an iOS app comes into play.

MayMyRide is a workout and bike ride tracker. Its normal use case is tracking the route taken for a bike ride, it provides stats (distance speed, climb etc) and a map. For this scenario I don’t care (as much) about the stats, but I do care about the map.

I use MapMyRide as a digital equivalent to a ball of string. I map the walk to the venue as a new route, then simply follow the route map back staying on the blue line.

The application works well enough, I’m still experimenting with the best method, but the simplest is to simply use the map and street names. However, I’m going to try other methods such as setting the route as an activity to see if it will then give me something easier to use.

This has worked well, I have used it twice when before I would have felt unable to go for after work drinks. Its simple, reliable and it is discreet.

Low jacked, the good kind.

The iPhone has a feature called find my iPhone. It allows you to find lost iPhones, it also allows you to find lost people should they have an iPhone in their pocket.

My partner can log in to “find my iPhone,” select my iPhone and find me if he needs too. I don’t think we have used it in anger yet, but knowing that he can locate me without issue should I get completely lost is very reassuring. If I get horribly confused, or spaced out on the tube, I just need to surface and give him a call. Very reassuring.

These little applications, used in this way, provide me with reassurance and in turn, that reassurance gives me the confidence to go do things that I would otherwise find to cause unbearable anxiety.

Are you on the autism spectrum or do you use apps in unexpected ways? If so let me know in the comments.

Published: 15 September 2014 | Categories: , Permalink


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