Spotlight on…Sean O'Neill

Category: Spotlight on Published: 15 November 2016

1) Can you tell us simply, in 3 sentences what your research is about?
My research focus is about evaluating whether or not smartphone prompting, when combined with self-management techniques, can support young adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with the demands of third level education, in particular the adherence to scheduled activities.

2) Why should we be interested in this issue?
Much research in the area of ASD is focused on skill development in children, and whilst this is a worthy focus, there exists a dearth of empirically supported programmes designed to support young adults with ASD who attend third level education.

3) What does it mean to your research career to be an ASSISTID Marie Curie Fellow?
This fellowship represents an opportunity to conduct applied research directly with young adults with an ASD. This applied aspect of my work is something I relish. The fact that I can do this type of work whilst on the ASSISTID Marie Curie fellowship programme puts me in a position to strengthen my applied research career at an early stage.

4) What do you hope the impact of your work will be?
Being in a position to make a positive difference to an individual’s life is a very powerful thing. If we can also derive research with high impact value both for our participants, in terms of increasing their capabilities, and for the research community then I think it is work well worth doing.

5) What is the most frequently asked question which people ask you about your work?
What exactly is “assistive technology”? My response to this question is that assistive technology can be anything that enhances the capabilities of individuals with ASD. I then go on to explain that for individuals with ASD that attend third level education the demands and social complexities of that environment can be difficult to manage. Through the use of smartphones, which are ubiquitous, and self-management strategies we can prompt participants to stay on track with their tasks and also self-record their progress.

6) Tell us something which might surprise us?
Dublin City University aims to be Europe’s first Autism friendly campus in that it hopes to provide a learning environment that promotes inclusion and learning for students with ASD that will assist them into future work. The aims of this programme and of my research project align very well and is an acknowledgment for the need of third level education to do more for this group of people.