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Eye-Tracking Tech for Early ASD Diagnosis

Eye Tracking Technology for Early Autism Spectrum Disorder ASD Diagnosis

Australia’s La Trobe University and Telethon Kids Institute are trialling new eye-tracking technology to support early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in children.

About the Initiative

According to a recent press release, the clinical trial is investigating the accuracy of Gazefinder as a potential aide to ASD diagnosis.

200 children between the ages of two and four will be involved in the two-year study. Half of them have already been diagnosed with ASD while the other half are developing typically.

Dr Kristelle Hudry, Lead Researcher from the University’s School of Psychology and Public Health shared that the technology could be a big step forward in diagnosing autism in children.

It works by having kids watch a short animated video. The Gazefinder, which looks and operates like a desktop computer, uses infrared light to track where their eyes go or what their gaze pattern is.

Based on past research, children on the spectrum respond differently to images of scenes.

They, for instance, maybe less interested in watching people and more interested in watching geometric shapes relative to other children.

The lead researcher explained that with the technology, it may be possible to streamline the diagnostic process as well as build confidence in clinicians, which may result in earlier diagnosis in children.

There are a plethora of fantastic programs in place to identify the early signs of autism in children in Australia.

An example would be the surveillance tools used by Victorian Maternal and Child Health nurses.

This research, meanwhile, aims to examine whether Gazefinder could be used as an additional tool to support diagnosis.

Background

Professor Andrew Whitehouse from the Telethon Kids Institute said the average age for ASD diagnosis in Australia is four.

It is critical to identify children on an autism pathway as early as possible in order to support the child as well as the family with interventions, which will maximise their potential.

Typically, diagnosis comes first before therapy is started. However, obtaining a diagnosis can be a long and difficult process for families.

It does not happen until the child is at least three years of age, and in fact, often not until they are school-aged.

The potential of Gazefinder to help speed up the process of diagnosis is truly exciting as it will enable the children and their families to get the support they need much earlier.

JVCKENWOOD Corporation has funded the research and aims to implement the results of the study in society by obtaining approval for use of Gazefinder as a medical device to support ASD diagnosis.

GazeFinder was developed in Japan by the aforementioned company.

Similar Initiative in South Australia

OpenGov Asia earlier reported on a similar initiative by Australia’s Flinders University.

The new Caring Futures Institute at Flinders University is the first research hub in Australia fully dedicated to the study of self-care and caring solutions to transform how people care for themselves and others.  Autism eye scan is among digital projects of the new Institute.

The retina is an extension of the brain, made of neural tissue and connected to the brain by the optic nerve. Thus, it was an ideal place to look.

They found a pattern of subtle electrical signals in the retina that are different in children on the autism spectrum, which relates to differences in their brain development.

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