Project Summary

Passion Project
Individual Project
07.2020 - 10.2020
Autism is about intense emotions, about living with a brain that does everything it can to control the world around you. It’s a subtle, and invisible disability.

“Chil.ly” is a pattern making app for autistic people, to practice mindfulness and alleviate anxiety in the daily environment.
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Sensory Overload

How does "sensory overload" feel like?

Many autistic people experience intense anxiety and emotion fluctuations. I made a short video to demonsrate what is it like to live with sensory overload

01. Research

Desktop Research

Key Findings

1. ASD is a developmental disability that causes social, communication, and behavioral challenge. Individuals with ASD have significant variations of symptoms.

2. Living problems faced by people with ASD include: unemployment, low participation in education beyond high school, and limited opportunity for social activities. 40% of them spend little or no time with friends.

3. Coping with Anxiety and intense emotions
1 is a big challenge for most autistic people. Some of them can feel the emotion but has difficulties naming them, and some of them have hyper sensitivity to stimuli.‍


@Baoshan Intellectual School

I went to Baozhan Intellectual School, which serves children with all kinds of mental and intellectual disabilities. I talked to 3 autistic kids and their parents, and their mentor Miss Zhou. I brought a box of colored markers, and gave a creative task to them. I intended to test their ability to concentrate.

However, I found they were more interested in the arrangement of colored markers than drawing. Some of them carefully arranged the markers in the order they wanted, which is a super interesting finding that proves autistic people have pattern seeking behavior.

02. Insights

Market Research

Then I investigated 98 most downloaded autism-related apps, targeting autistic people. Among these apps, only 9.8% of them address the emotional problem of autistic people. However, coping with anxiety is an important part of their life. I did further research on the 9 emotion aid apps, and breakdown their characteristics as follows.

To fill the gap, I decide the function of my app should be be both to entertain and to regulate emotion.

Click to see the breakdown of the 98 Apps


I combined the concept of art therapy and Aspergers’ pattern seeking behaviors, and decide to make a “pattern drawing app” for stress relief.

The concept of art therapy + pattern seeking = Pattern drawing app

For the visual, I want to minimize the visual stimuli 4 for autistic people with sensory overload issues.

03. Ideation

"CHIL.LY" App video demo

Brush Stroke Design

I use the coding platform "Processing" to realize my vision, and created three brush effects with code.

Click on the image below to try out the brush effects ↓

04. User Testing & More


I found these autistic kids had very short attention spans and could easily be distracted, and it’s hard to get their attention on the screen. However, after I managed to get their attention, they showed interest in this drawing program and started creating drawings.

“Chil.ly” still has room for improvement. As I use a computer for the user testing, and the kids are not so familiar with using a computer, some of them showed curiosity about on my computer more than the screen.

In the future development of the app, I would use ipad and phone as interface as these interfaces more intuitive to them, and would be harder to get distracted.

• Another finding is that my peers also found this program good for practice mindfulness, and they thought the process of drawing relieves stress. Therefore, neuro-typical people may be a secondary user group.


1. Faridi, Farnaz, and Reza Khosrowabadi. “Behavioral, Cognitive and Neural Markers of Asperger Syndrome.” Basic and clinical neuroscience vol. 8,5 (2017): 349-359. doi:10.18869/nirp.bcn.8.5.349

2. Jeste SS, Kirkham N, Senturk D, Hasenstab K, Sugar C, Kupelian C, Baker E, Sanders AJ, Shimizu C, Norona A, Paparella T, Freeman SF, Johnson SP. Electrophysiological evidence of heterogeneity in visual statistical learning in young children with ASD. Dev Sci. 2015 Jan;18(1):90-105. doi: 10.1111/desc.12188. Epub 2014 May 13. PMID: 24824992; PMCID: PMC4231013.

3. Saffran JR, Aslin RN, Newport EL. Statistical learning by 8-month-old infants. Science. 1996 Dec 13;274(5294):1926-8. doi: 10.1126/science.274.5294.1926. PMID: 8943209.

4. Scott-Van Zeeland AA, McNealy K, Wang AT, Sigman M, Bookheimer SY, Dapretto M. No neural evidence of statistical learning during exposure to artificial languages in children with autism spectrum disorders. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Aug 15;68(4):345-51. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.01.011. Epub 2010 Mar 29. PMID: 20303070;

5. https ://www .who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

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