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This app aims to help people with autism avoid meltdowns

This app aims to help people with autism avoid meltdowns

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Carly Fulgham has been told her meltdowns can be pretty nasty. The 42-year-old with autism says she blacks out when they happen.

"All I know is that I don’t want it to happen."
Carly Fulgham, referring to her meltdowns

“I’ve been told that it’s like epic proportions," Fulgham said, from her home in California. "That if I had recorded it, I could sell it to like a Hollywood screenwriter type of thing. But I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t want it to happen.”

Chronaly, an app for people with developmental disorders, wants to prevent these episodes from happening, too.

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The app allows users to turn activities and emotions associate with those activities into data and analytics.

"It gives me the ability to track when I start to feel really anxious," said Fulgham, who's been using the app for a month now. "‘OK, what was I doing before that? You know, what happened the day before? What happened that night?’"

Autism is a developmental disorder that affects one in 150 Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It can make socializing and communicating difficult.

“I had issues with communication," Fulgham said, when asked about her childhood. "I went for like an entire year speaking in commercial jingles, so you’d ask me ‘How are you today?’ And I’d say, ‘Have a Coke and a smile!’”

Fulgham was diagnosed with autism when she was 28 -- pretty late for the average person but not unheard of, especially for women. She uses Chronaly to record activities and how they make her feel.

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Carly Fulgham has been using Chronaly for a month now.

"It helps me recognize my coping mechanisms," said Fulgham, "so that when I’m more likely to have a meltdown, I’m able to reflect and say, ‘Even though I’m not using this coping mechanism right now, let’s try to start and use it.’”

But Chronaly isn't just for the person with autism. It's for their relatives and health care providers, too.

"We’ve been on a mission of building a digital health technology company that develops applications for a global community — the parents, the therapists, the doctors, the children, the teachers, the enterprises, the governments, so on and so forth, so that we can connect them, empower them, and enable them to enhance lives, health, and health outcomes," said Edmond Banayan, co-founder and CEO of Chronaly.

Fulgham's therapist, for instance, can be added as an administrator of the account, giving her access to Carly's "activities" and moods. Her husband can get access on his phone as well. If Fulgham has an anxiety attack from waiting too long at the grocery store, her therapist can see that and come up with a coping mechanism. Her husband, on his way home from work, can see what transpired that day and bring home flowers.

“Most of the time when I have a meltdown as an adult, I black out," says Fulgham. "And I don’t remember what happened.”

Chronaly does.

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Fulgham, who's eight months pregnant, says an app like Chronaly is helpful as she's about to become a mother for the first time.

This app isn't the first for people with autism. There are a slew of apps that help people communicate or stay organized, like :prose and Goal Guide. In the last few years, mobile technology has started to play a bigger role in raising kids with autism and helping adults who have the disorder.

Sylvia Smith, an expert in education for people with autism, says technology has been a major asset in helping people on the spectrum gain new skills.

"A lot of individuals with autism really like to see action, reaction — and technology can really provide that in a safe environment, said Smith, executive director of Giant Steps, school for kids and teens with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

For Carly, who's pregnant, a platform like Chronaly -- which hopes to develop products for more developmental disorders -- couldn't come at a better time.

"As I have to deal with the increased stress of having a child, I’ll be able to keep track of my own self better," Fulgham said. "If I’m not able to be healthy for my baby, that’s not a good thing.”

Timeline of milestones in virtual reality
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