Burlington, Vermont – Scientists from the University of Vermont have developed a new technique to diagnose autism earlier than ever in children by tracking the movement of their eyes when talking to another person. The findings, published in the journal Research in Autism Spectrum Disorder, revealed that affected children miss “important social cues” because they usually focus only on the speaker’s mouth when talking about emotional issues.
Many children go undiagnosed for years due to the lack of an objective method to spot Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), which is why this new technique results so important.
Autism had been previously diagnosed by asking parents about the behavior of their child, as well as by conducting clinical observations and interviews with the subjects. On average, the age of diagnosis is four.
ASD consists of a disability that usually implicates severe challenges in terms of behavior and social and communication skills, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
After conducting a test on the eye-tracking technique, researchers say they can quickly identify autism over the internet by using a software and a webcam that shows where people are looking when emotional issues are being discussed.
Lead author Tiffany Hutchins said that ASD children really take into account what people talk about, as reported by The Independent. The speaker just needs to use words about feelings to make ASD patients look towards their mouth.
The study found that subjects whose gaze moved from the speaker’s eyes towards the mouth had severe autism and poor intellectual and verbal ability. Hutchins explained that people who talk about emotions are more likely to express their feelings with their eyes and ASD children typically miss the information contained in that area, according to the report by The Independent.
Newly-developed techniques help ASD children get treatment faster
Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio have used eye-tracing technology to see how long autistic children spend looking at the non-social and social features in images and videos. Team leader Dr. Thomas Frazier said that the easy-to-use remote eye tracking allows identification improvement and its objective characteristic is more likely to help parents accept the diagnosis so their children can get treatment faster.
Source: The Independent