Classification of Activity Engagement in Individuals with Severe Physical Disabilities Using Signals of the Peripheral Nervous System Journal Articles uri icon

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  • Communication barriers often result in exclusion of children and youth with disabilities from activities and social settings that are essential to their psychosocial development. In particular, difficulties in describing their experiences of activities and social settings hinder our understanding of the factors that promote inclusion and participation of this group of individuals. To address this specific communication challenge, we examined the feasibility of developing a language-free measure of experience in youth with severe physical disabilities. To do this, we used the activity of the peripheral nervous system to detect patterns of psychological arousal associated with activities requiring different patterns of cognitive/affective and interpersonal involvement (activity engagement). We demonstrated that these signals can differentiate among patterns of arousal associated with these activities with high accuracy (two levels: 81%, three levels: 74%). These results demonstrate the potential for development of a real-time, motor- and language-free measure for describing the experiences of children and youth with disabilities.


  • Kushki, Azadeh
  • Andrews, Alexander J
  • Power, Sarah D
  • King, Gillian
  • Chau, Tom

publication date

  • 2012