Daniel Mruzek, PhD, collaborates on development of new toilet training device for children with autism

MruzekDr. Daniel Mruzek, an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics and a 2009 CTSI pilot funding awardee, has collaborated with the Department of Biomedical Engineering to construct a device designed to help toilet-train children with autism or other developmental disabilities.

Dr. Mruzek says the overall goal of the device is to help break down the social barriers faced by children with developmental disabilities. Research shows it may take a family a year-and-a-half to toilet-train a child with autism. In the initial pilot study, the device reduced that time to a few weeks. Preliminary funding was provided by the CTSI’s Clinical and Translational Pilot Award program. Dr. Mruzek received a Faculty Award in the amount of $50,000 to support one year of research.

Dr. Mruzek collaborated with Dr. Stephen McAleavey, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering, to develop the device. It consists of an iPod, a Bluetooth-enabled transmitter, and a sterile pad with a sensor.  When a drop of urine touches the pad, the sensor sends a signal to the iPod, triggering an alarm. The caregiver or teacher carrying the iPod then knows to assist the child in the bathroom. If the child successfully uses the toilet, the iPod offers a reward – a game, song, or photo. The device’s functionality also includes the option to e-mail progress reports to the child’s physician. The software for the project was written by Dan Hansen, a freshman computer science major.

The CTSI’s Clinical and Translational Pilot Award program provides funding for preliminary and proof-of-concept studies critical to moving basic laboratory findings into clinical applications. It offers awards in four categories: Faculty; Trainee; UNYTE Translational Research Network; and Novel Biostatisticial and Epidemiologic Methods. To read more about the program, click here.

To watch a video of Drs. Mruzek and McAleavey explaining the project, click here.

To view Dr. Mruzek’s URMC research profile, click here.

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