Short home videos may provide enough information to determine whether or not a child is on the autism spectrum, a new study suggests. By analyzing one- to five-minute videos of young children, researchers say that they were able to distinguish those with autism from typically-developing kids with nearly 90 percent accuracy.
For the study, a group of non-expert raters were asked to watch videos of 162 children, 116 of whom had autism and the remainder who had no diagnosis. All of the videos showed the child’s face and hands, the opportunity to use toys or other objects as well as the option for social engagement. The raters — who did not know about the children’s diagnostic histories — were asked to answer 30 questions with a simple “yes” or “no” about whether each child made eye contact, expressed emotion and other behaviors.
Information from the raters was then input into eight different algorithms. The most successful model relied on ratings for five behaviors and was able to accurately label 94.5 percent of children with autism and 77.4 percent of those without.
Currently, many children face long waits to be evaluated for autism. Though the developmental disorder can be diagnosed at age 2, most children are not identified until after age 4, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Those behind the study say they hope their model can one day be used to help speed the process of getting an autism diagnosis, allowing children to enter treatment sooner when it’s considered most effective.