Autism Information

Monday, September 15, 2008

Detecting Autism at 9 months of Age

A new tool currently being developed has the ability to detect autism in children as young as 9 months.

The Early Autism Study, led by Mel Rutherford, associate professor of psychology in the Faculty of Science, has been using eye tracker technology that measures eye direction while the babies look at faces, eyes, and bouncing balls on a computer screen.

"What's important about this study is that now we can distinguish between a group of siblings with autism from a group with no autism -- at nine months and 12 months," says Rutherford. "I can do this in 10 minutes, and it is objective, meaning that the only measure is eye direction; it's not influenced by a clinician's report or by intuition. Nobody's been able to distinguish between these groups at so early an age."

The current technology for autism detection is reliable around the age of two making the recent development very remarkable.

"There is an urgent need for a quick, reliable and objective screening tool to aid in diagnosing autism much earlier than is presently possible," she says. "Developing a tool for the early detection of autism would have profound effects on people with autism, their parents, family members, and future generations of those at risk of developing autism."

This is a wonderful development in helping children with autism. Now, we can start helping them much earlier than we've previously had.


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