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Screening For Autism: There's an App For That

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A snapshot from one of the video tracking tests in a clinical setting.

Researchers at Duke University have developed software that tracks infants' activities during autism screening tests.

Credit: Duke University News

Duke University researchers have developed software that tracks and records infants' activity during videotaped autism screening tests.

Early testing shows the program is as good at spotting behavioral markers of autism as experts giving the test themselves, and better than non-expert medical clinicians and students in training.

"We want to give people tools they don't currently have, because research has shown that early intervention can greatly impact the severity of the symptoms common in autism spectrum disorders," says Duke researcher Jordan Hashemi.

The researchers focused on three behavioral tests that can help identify autism in very young children. The new program enables testers in each example to provide more accuracy, recording reaction times down to tenths of a second.

"The great benefit of the video and software is for general practitioners who do not have the trained eye to look for subtle early warning signs of autism," says University of Minnesota professor Amy Esler, who participated in some of the trials.

In the future, the researchers plan to test a new tablet application that could remove the need for a person to administer any tests at all. "The goal is to mimic the same sorts of social interactions that the tests with the toys and balls measure, but without the toys and balls," says Duke professor Guillermo Sapiro.

From Duke University News
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