Smartphone App Designed To Detect Early Signs Of Autism

An undergraduate student has teamed up with a group of scientists and designed a smartphone app that may help parents detect early signs of autism in their children.

According to Gephardt Daily, Kun Woo Cho, an undergraduate student at the State University of New York at Buffalo teamed up with scientists and worked on a study focused on uncovering tools that could help detect early signs of autism. The goal of these tools was to detect signs of autism in children as young as two years old. Their paper containing their findings was presented during the IEEE Wireless Health conference in October.

The study allowed the student and scientists to develop an app that could be used on a smartphone, computer, or tablet. The reason why the student and scientists were so focused on getting an app designed that could help detect early signs of autism is because of how critical it is for a child to start receiving early intervention treatment.

The assistant pediatrics professor Michelle Hartley-McAndrew talked about how crucial it was for an early diagnosis and treatment because of how quickly the brain develops at a young age.

“The brain continues to grow and develop after birth. The earlier the diagnosis, the better. Then we can inform families and begin therapies, which will improve symptoms and outcome.”

The smartphone app was designed to track a child’s eye movements while he/she is looking at pictures of social settings. By scanning the way the child moves his/her eyes while looking at this picture, the app can detect early signs of autism. The researchers who worked on the study talked about how children with autism will process the pictures designed into the app very differently than children without autism. Children without autism tend to be more focused on the pictures.

The undergraduate student who designed the smartphone app believes the reason the app will help parents detect early signs of autism is because autistic children have a hard time understanding pictures of a social setting.

“We speculate that it is due to their lack of ability to interpret and understand the relationship depicted in the social scene.”

The student and the team of scientists who worked on the smartphone app feel very positive about its ability to detect early signs of autism. They think parents will really like the smartphone app because it is a lot less intrusive than some of the other methods currently being used to detect early signs of autism. This smartphone app was designed to take less than a minute to scan a child’s eye movements. During the study, the smartphone app was 93.96 percent successful in detecting early signs of autism in young children.

Despite what some would agree appears to be a very successful smartphone app that could be very useful to parents who suspect their child could be autistic, the developers who designed the app are stressing that the work on the app is not yet finished.

Kun Woo Cho added that the smartphone app that has been designed is nothing more than a “prototype” at this point in time that still needs additional testing. This is largely because Cho and his team do not yet know how other conditions, such as ADD, could affect the results of the app.

“Right now it is a prototype. We have to consider if other neurological conditions are included, like ADD, how that will affect the outcome.”

Scientists who are involved in the creation of this smartphone app designed to detect early signs of autism have pointed out that there are a number of challenges to be overcome in regards to diagnosing and treating autism. The entire team, however, is hopeful that the smartphone app could help parents determine whether or not they need to take their child to a specialist for an official diagnosis.

Be sure to let us know what you think about a smartphone app being designed to help detect early signs of autism in young children in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Zahraa Saleh/ShutterStock]