BUFFALO, New York — For parents one of the most difficult decisions they may face early in their child’s life is whether to test that child for autism spectrum disorder.
“A lot of parents are afraid of knowing their children need those kids of services,” Wenyao Xu, Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Engineering at the University at Buffalo, said.
He is one of the researchers who helped create the free app EarlySee, which helps detect autism in children as young as 12 months old.
“The earlier diagnosis, the early therapy and intervention, the more benefit we will have,” Xu said.
The average age of autism diagnosis is five years old, but the research team at UB hopes this app will help families detect autism years earlier.
EarlySee uses facial expression and gaze behavior to estimate the risk of autism with this 40-second video.
The phone’s camera detects a child’s eye movement and eye attention to analyze their social and cognitive capabilities while watching this video. Based on the behavioral response, after the 40 seconds is up, researchers can estimate the risk of autism.
“Children with autism, their behavior would be different than normally developed children,” he said.
The data is then sent back to researchers to examine. They will send the results back to families within two to four weeks.
Researchers says EarlySee has a 97% accuracy rate compared to the standard clinical testing for autism, testing that takes nine months for results. They stress this app isn’t a replacement for that test, but rather another tool for parents who want to give their children the best care possible.
The app is currently only available for Android. Researchers hope to launch the app for iPhones within the next few months.