Autism Awareness Day

Students develop app that helps kids with autism get dressed

Smartphone app is a whole lot more than a virtual closet


When Erik Linstead, whose daughter has autism, got to talking with the other parents in his daughter’s therapy group, he noticed a common complaint: Children with autism were struggling to put together appropriate outfits in the morning. Sometimes, they’d  want to wear a raincoat when it wasn’t raining. Or they’d pick out the same clothes they’d worn the day before.

Linstead is an assistant professor of computer science at Chapman University, and he challenged his undergrads to design an app to help people with autism figure out what to wear. Chapman seniors Justine Stewart and Jennifer Re, who are digital arts majors, teamed up with computer science students Aneesha Prakash and Mirabel Rice, and built “Smart Dresser.”


Users add photos of their clothing and store them in a virtual “Closet,” and the app uses image processing technology to suggest an appropriate, color-coordinated outfit. It takes into account the local weather forecast as well as the last time each piece of clothing was worn. Users can either generate a random outfit or build an ensemble around one piece of clothing.


“Eventually we want to be able to include features that help you get dressed for interviews or for specific events,” Stewart told Women in the World in a phone interview. It’s easy to imagine “Smart Dresser” having applications for people without autism, too. You don’t have to have a neurological disorder to have trouble remembering what you wore the other day.

The women haven’t released the app yet–they’re busy graduating from college–but they’ve been testing it with autism patients. “We’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from parents and users,” said Stewart. They plan to release the app this Spring.



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