Season 14 Innovators
Georges Jreij knows the impact a case of autism can have on the life of a child and the family around them – he witnessed this firsthand through a case in his extended family. The budding innovator was drawn to the field of psychology throughout his high school years, which led him to focus all his energy as a senior student in his native Lebanon towards understanding the human mind and dedicating himself to helping autistic children around the world.
Currently a biomedical engineering student at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional de Grenoble, France, Jreij is determined to create new technologies relevant to the field of psychology. Armed with an entrepreneurial spirit, he aims to develop a project that would hold universal benefits for autistic children – regardless of where they fall on the autism spectrum.
Stars of Science intrigued Jreij ever since he first heard about the show. Early on, he committed himself to developing something that would help him win the contest. His interest in autism offered him the opportunity to innovate for a population which is often ignored by mainstream innovators.
About the Project
One of the severe consequences of autism involves complete meltdowns in public and private places. Autism meltdown is not a simple tantrum but a higher-energy display of irritation, frustration, and unhappiness. These meltdowns can be disruptive and intense, requiring significant attention and effort from caretakers to alleviate the child’s situation. It is the spontaneity of these meltdowns which make them especially difficult to handle as parents may often find themselves unprepared.
Growing up, Jreij had learnt that each autistic person experiences unique symptoms and challenges. He also knew that the cure is not available with very limited devices existing that could help children with autism. His project thus deploys ‘smart textile’ and machine learning to predict autism meltdowns with early enough warning.
Jreij has developed a Wearable Autism Meltdown Predictor that fuses measurements from sensors detecting changes in heartrate, motion acceleration, temperature, and skin dampness. This invention is unique since its artificial intelligence component can ‘learn’ over time. After a required initial training phase, if the algorithm inaccurately predicts a meltdown, parents can correct the prediction, helping the algorithm learn more about the child. By allowing for the early identification of meltdowns, Jreij’s invention can help parents plan accordingly and even prevent meltdowns by taking proactive action. Hence, this invention has the potential to alleviate stress and frustration experienced by the child and the parents alike.
Nearly one in a hundred people around the world suffer from autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This means that nearly 80 million people around the world are on the autism spectrum. Technologies like the Wearable Autism Meltdown Predictor are needed to help predict the onset of meltdowns within this vulnerable demographic. Jreij’s device would help parents and children proactively take measures to ensure that the likelihood of a meltdown is reduced and that the causes of potential meltdowns are addressed in a timely fashion.
Jreij foresees the device being used as a daily gadget, not just as a piece of medical equipment. The Wearable Autism Meltdown Predictor can become a common device within homes, helping children and their parents avoid potential frustration and anxiety by predicting meltdowns and working with the child to avoid and mitigate them in the future.