Brain in hand - personal technology for independant living

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Universities are seeing an increase in the number of students accessing support services and a rise in the number of students disclosing an Autism diagnosis.
Taking place at a time when support funding is being cut, De Montfort University has adopted Brain in Hand to evolve its support for students and help them to flourish.

“This cutting-edge technology will help transform our service provision and student satisfaction.”
Tina Sharpe, Disability Services Manager at De Montfort University.

Situation
De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) was the first university in the country to provide Brain in Hand to its students. The app was introduced at the start of the 2017/2018 academic year to almost 200 students. It is making a big difference to the lives of the students who use it and allows the University’s support team to reach out to more students. Students are reporting a reduction in levels of anxiety and are say the app lets them keep their studies on track.

The technology is also helping the support team to stay in closer contact with the students they support. They can now see how every student user is feeling at all times. Support staff can also see the problems being faced by each student and so add advice and encouragement on the system to help students between appointments.

Tina Sharpe, Disability Services Manager at De Montfort University, said: “We’ve adopted Brain in Hand as part of our plan to empower students to manage their learning journey and use this for their future in employment. This cutting-edge technology will help transform our service provision and student satisfaction.

“The first year of the pilot was one of developing strategies to ensure that Brain in Hand is integrated into the support packages of our ASD students. We have learnt that we need to have ongoing workshops throughout the University academic year; that we ensure that we monitor and we respond to the data provided ( this has proved particularly useful when considering high anxiety points) and that for the future sessions we ensure students are working with the app wherever possible prior to them arriving at the University.

“Going forward we have expanded to meet the needs of students with Mental Health issues. This has been a truly successful venture and one which we will continue to develop with our partners.”

Student stories include:

Saajan is 19 years old, has autism and is studying physics whilst living at home. That means a 5am start to travel to Leicester by train followed by a walk into campus which leaves him exhausted by midday as he often forgets to take a break. But Saajan now has reminders built into his Brain in Hand to prompt him to take actions that will help keep him healthy and alert. He previously wrote down the advice he got from his university mentor, and the notes often got lost; now on his phone, he knows it’s within easy reach. Saajan particularly likes the traffic light system on the app, which summons assistance when he needs it. Last year whilst preparing coursework he became anxious about missing a deadline, so he pressed the red traffic light on Brain in Hand. A university support team member was able to talk it through with him, which enabled him to settle down and get on with the task. At his next support appointment with his mentor, he developed solutions to add to his Brain in Hand app which would help next time he faces this problem.

Holly is 19 years old and is a first-year student studying Graphic Design. Holly is very close to her parents and found it extremely tough when they moved to Canada shortly after she started university. She has struggled with living on her own for the first time and experiences panic attacks so she has worked with the university support team to enter advice and reminders into her Brain in Hand. Holly finds walking home especially hard, as her route involves passing Leicester City’s stadium. With the help of Brain in Hand, she doesn’t panic and freeze if she’s faced by large crowds – she simply reminds herself of alternative routes. Her family have also been given access to Brain in Hand, letting them add comments and words of encouragement, which has been especially motivating for Holly.