New Autism Screening Tool Showing Success

I used to think there was nothing new under the sun about autism. But today I read that a new screening method may improve the way the disease is diagnosed and tracked in children after age 3.  And it's very unique.

According to newswise.com, the new method involves tracking a person’s random movements in real time "with a sophisticated computer program that produces 240 images a second and detects systematic signatures unique to each person."

How it differs from the traditional assessment for diagnosing autism is that it now removes the primarily subjective opinions of "a person’s social interaction, deficits in communication, and repetitive and restricted behaviors and interests."

In other words, there is now an objective way to test for, and diagnose, autism, providing an earlier, diagnosis by factoring in the importance of changes in movements and movement sensing.  This enables professionals to identify "inherent capabilities in each child," rather than just highlighting impairments of the child’s movement systems, a story at newswise.com reports.

The new screening method "measures tiny fluctuations in movement as the individual moves through space," and helps figure out the exact degree to which these patterns of motion differ from more typically developing individuals, and "to what degree they can turn into predictive, reliable and anticipatory movements."

Even in nonverbal children and adults with autism, the story says, the method can diagnose "autism subtypes, identify gender differences and track individual progress in development and treatment."  Even better, the method may also be used on infants.

“We can estimate the cognitive abilities of people just from the variability of how they move,” Jorge V. José, Ph.D., vice president of research at Indiana University and the James H. Rudy Distinguished Professor of Physics in the IU Bloomington College of Arts and Sciences, a member of the team that developed the tool. “This research may open doors for the autistic community by offering the option of a dynamic diagnosis at a much earlier age and possibly enabling the start of therapy sooner in the child's development," Dr. José was quoted by newswise.com.

Dr. José said statistical properties of how people move and the speed and random nature of the movements "produce a quantitative measurement that can be applied to individuals when the new technology captures their movements."

In another unique study, autistic children learned to convey and get what they wanted through a digital set-up that works much like a Wii, according to  Elizabeth Torres, Ph.D., the principal investigator for the study and an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers.

Children with autism were exposed to onscreen media -- such as videos of themselves, cartoons, "and learned to communicate what they like(d) with a simple motion," she said in the article.

Torres believes that traditional forms of therapy, which place more emphasis on socially acceptable behavior, "can actually hinder children with autism by discouraging mechanisms they have developed to cope with their sensory and motor differences, which vary greatly from individual to individual."









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