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New Technology Is Able To Predict Whether Or Not A Child Is On The Autism Spectrum




A study conducted by researchers at Waterloo University, in Canada, found that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are able to scan a person’s face a little differently than children who are neurotypical. Due to these findings, researchers have created a new technology that takes the child’s gaze into consideration to see how a child’s eyes transition from person to person. 


So you might be thinking, what is the purpose of this technology? Well, this new technology was created to eventually be used to survey other children in order to determine whether they’re on the spectrum or not using the typical vision patterns of the surveyed group. This new diagnostic test will make it less stressful for children while being tested for autism but will also make it harder for doctors to receive false positives when testing children for autism. 


This new diagnostic test will also make early intervention a lot easier for families because false positives won’t be an issue anymore and neither will be going through many years of uncertainty trying to figure out what’s going on with their child. 


To develop this new technology, researchers took it upon themselves to survey about 17 children who are on the autism spectrum as well as about 23 neurotypical children. Each participant in the study was shown 44 photos of people’s faces on a 19-inch screen that had an eye-tracking system integrated into it.

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The programing was then able to identify the locations that stimulated each child’s eye and could tell where each child was looking at each photo, using the reflection wave from the child’s iris. 


The photo’s sections were labeled with the following: under the right eye, right eye, under the left eye, left eye, nose, mouth, and other parts of the screen. This was to see what part of the face the child preferred to look at the most and which areas they avoided. Researchers also wanted to know the importance each child put on each area of the face when exploring the photo’s different features. 


The initial phase of the research would determine how the child eyes would move from one portion of the face to another. The second portion of the research would determine how frequently the child’s eye would scan multiple parts of the face while moving from one feature to another. The third portion was used to determine how fast each child would move from one feature to another, and finally, the last portion would determine the importance the child’s eye would place upon certain areas of the face.


At the moment, the most typical ways of determining a child is on the autism spectrum or not is by conducting a questionnaire tailored to ASD or an evaluation from the child’s psychologist. Questionnaires may be a little tedious for children on the spectrum because they may stop paying attention to the questions being presented to them — it’s much easier to show the child a photo of someone’s face or an animated figure that the child will actually pay attention to see how their eyes move around. 


The idea is to try analyzing how the child looks at everything, not just one thing and with this new technology, a child’s primary care provider can easily determine where the child lies on the spectrum or if they’re even on the spectrum at all.

This new technology could really change the way children are diagnosed with autism.
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