Short home videos, such as those posted on YouTube, may become a powerful tool for diagnosing autism, according to a study whose senior author is a scientist at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
No biochemical or physical tests for autism have been established, so the developmental disorder is diagnosed by observing a child for such telltale signs as repetitive behaviors, poor language skills and lack of eye contact. On average, children with autism are diagnosed at age 4, though their parents often suspect for years before diagnosis that something is wrong. Delayed diagnosis is a missed opportunity; prior research has shown that behavioral autism treatments work best when started early, at age 2 or 3.
Yet with only brief training, research assistants were able to accurately score autistic-type behaviors in home videos of children in natural settings, the study found. “Our new paper supports the hypothesis that we can detect autism quickly in very short home videos with high accuracy,” said Dennis Wall, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics in systems medicine and the senior author of the paper, published April 16 in PLOS ONE. Vincent Fusaro, PhD, a research associate at Harvard, is the lead author. The finding has the potential to improve the speed and availability of autism diagnosis.