First-of-its-kind study of digital self-management support for autistic adults reveals significant improvements in anxiety levels and quality of life

Madeira Public Health Service SESARAM EPERAM collaborates with the EU | mifuturonorcal

  • Clinical study by Cornwall NHS Trust and Plymouth University finds anxiety, self-harm behaviour, memory and orientation problems are reduced using Brain in Hand technology
  • Results released as waiting times for an autism assessment increase by 35%

Exeter, UK; October 10, 2022: A first-of-its-kind prospective cohort study of the impact of digital self-management in helping to support autistic adults revealed significant reductions in anxiety, self-injurious behavior, and memory and orientation problems.

The study was conducted by CIDER (Cornwall Intellectual Disability Equitable Research of Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust/University of Plymouth) in collaboration with Brain in handa UK-based digital healthcare company and a leader in innovation in supported self-management.

The study showed that providing digital support to autistic adults, or people on a waiting list for an autism assessment, can achieve positive psychological outcomes and help people maintain their well-being.

This is among the news that the waiting list for an autism evaluation has increased by 35%with many waiting several years.

Funded by Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI Healthcare) program, an accelerated access collaborative initiative in partnership with Academic Health Science Networks, the study included autistic adults or those awaiting an autism assessment at seven NHS sites in England and Wales. The sites were Cornwall, Wales, Coventry and Warwickshire, Haringey, Barnet and Enfield, Hertfordshire, Devon and Cheshire.

Quantitative data were collected at two time points (baseline and 12-week follow-up) and used the Health of the Nation Outcome Scales for people with Learning Disabilities (HoNOS-LD) to measure the impact of Brain in Hand on quality of life, and the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale to assess the presence and change of symptoms of anxiety and depression.

There were statistically significant improvements for anxiety and quality of life in the follow-up phase. Notably, self-harm behavior decreased from 1.30 at baseline to 0.58 at follow-up (HoNOS-LD). Memory and orientation problems reduced from 0.88 to 0.47 and communication problems understanding comprehension reduced from 1.00 to 0.39. Problems with eating and drinking and problems with relationships were also significantly reduced.

Qualitative data were also collected from a randomly selected subsample; the results found that Brain in Hand helped participants build confidence and feel a greater sense of self-awareness, and that it was supportive during lockdown. All participants in the qualitative study would recommend Brain in Hand based on their experience.

Brain in Hand is a digital self-management system with built-in human support that empowers a person to do more for themselves and build their independence. Combine solution-focused hands-on coaching, simple digital tools, and 24/7 on-demand human support.

Professor Rohit Shankar MBE, FRCPsych, Consultant in Adult Developmental Neuropsychiatry (CFT), professor of neuropsychiatry, University of Plymouth and director of CIDER, who led the study, said: « Autistic adults are a vulnerable population with significantly higher rates higher levels of psychological distress, higher levels of self-harm and increased premature mortality. However, these adverse health outcomes for a proportion of autistic people could be avoided through adequate levels of preventive health care and support. I think it’s especially promising to see that Brain in Hand helped significantly reduce anxiety and the risk of self-harm behavior for those who completed the study. If we’re going to level the playing field for people with autism, we need to look at these kinds of innovative approaches that inform, enable and empower people to help themselves. »

Connor Ward, autism advocate and influencer and independent adviser to Brain in Hand on the SBRI funding application, said: “The world can be difficult for autistic people to navigate – it is not designed for us. The challenges of living our daily lives can cause real mental health issues and crises, but there are too many barriers for us to get the support we need. Something like Brain in Hand, technology that can help us manage our needs and avoid bigger problems, could be a huge boon in giving autistic people more independence.

Dr. Louise Morpeth, CEO of Brain in Hand, concluded: “Autistic people are underserved by our society. Support is hard to access and research is woefully underfunded. The results of this study are an exciting new development and demonstrate how human-supported technology can make a huge difference for autistic people. We cannot forget that prevention is also crucial for health systems as they seek to overcome the backlog and recover from the lasting impact of the pandemic. Brain in Hand is doing a lot to help provide support to people who need it, while relieving cost and resource pressure for healthcare professionals as well.

Although funded by Brain in Hand’s SBRI award, the study was conducted by an independent research team. To find out more about the study, visit this website: