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Fellows List

Dr Sean O'Neill: Incoming Fellow

Project Title: Increasing independence in adults with Autism using discrete smartphone prompting

Host Institution: Dublin City University (DCU)

Host PI: Dr Sinead Smyth, School of Nursing and Human Sciences, DCU

Home Institution: Wales Centre for Behavioural Change


Sean O’Neill is an incoming DOCTRID and ASSISTID Marie Curie Fellow. Dr O’Neill received his Ph.D. in Behaviour Analysis from Ulster University. His doctoral dissertation emphasised extensive direct work with individuals with ASD whilst comparing a variety of instructional procedures (prompt delay), with typical teaching methods, using measures of effectiveness and efficiency. An explicit goal of this research was to decipher best practice. Having completed his Ph.D. Sean worked as a behavioural psychologist and researcher at the Wales Centre for Behaviour Change (WCBC), Bangor University, North Wales (UK). Work at the WCBC included co-authoring a chapter for Public Health Wales outlining how behaviour change science could be applied within a novel Welsh Prudent Health initiative  Additional projects at the WCBC also included using behavioural principles to increase domestic food waste composting behaviour in an area of social deprivation. His interests include applied research and practice, specifically, how behaviour change science and behaviour analysis can deliver high impact improvements on issues of social significance. The improved independence and wellbeing of individuals with ID and/or ASD is an example of a socially significant issue of importance.

Selected work

Heather, E., O’Neill, S., Hughes, J. C., & Parkinson, J. A. (2015). Applying behaviour change science to improve the health of everyone in Wales. Making prudent healthcare happen. Retrieved February 2, 2015, from

Increasing independence in adults with Autism using discrete smartphone prompting

The majority of adults with ID and/or ASD need help with organising and scheduling their daily activities in the absence of a caregiver. The ability to self-manage everyday tasks will increase independence, self-worth and wellbeing. This research project will develop self-management strategies for individuals with ID and/or ASD using smartphone technology that will deliver prompts to the individual to complete specific tasks. These daily tasks and activities are personal to the individual and will be identified through functional assessments with end users, carers and family members. Smart prompts will be personalised, highly specific and dependent on a number of variables (time of day, location, weather, target skill etc.) that is designed to promote optimum independence. This technology is off-the-shelf (smartphone and software) and will be adapted to the specific needs of the individual in line with person-centred planning and care. Sensor technology in both the phone and in the home will capture relevant user behaviour and feedback on participant adherence and completion. This data will be used to record and build up a clear picture of the effectiveness of the intervention along with potential barriers to success. Our focus will be on young adults who are transitioning out of child services.