University of Victoria

Together we CanAssist.

Therapeutic Pillow

A teenage boy's autism was making it difficult for him to regulate his emotions, so his caregivers asked CanAssist to develop a device that would encourage him to relax.

Behavioral consultant Kim Barthell told CanAssist that the teen needed something that would provide comfort and reassurance by incorporating a constant, rhythmic sensory output – something he could see, hear and hold. Her theory was that such a tool would be “physically grounding” for the young man.

So CanAssist's mechanical and electrical engineering staff worked together to create a pillow that expands and contracts rhythmically, to help the young man soothe himself in times of stress.

The cozy white pillow, which looks like it's breathing when plugged in, is set at a speed similar to a heartbeat. Its internal motor creates a continuous purring sound.

On delivery day, CanAssist staff met with the teen – who seemed anxious and fidgety – as well as his support team. When the pillow was turned on, it was very clear that Kim's theory was correct. The young man immediately focused on the pillow's repetitive movement and humming sound, and, as he did so, his body and mind seemed to become still and relaxed almost instantly.

Now, whenever the young man is distraught or restless, he's able to watch or hold the pillow to calm himself.

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