Diagnosing a child with autism can be a long and arduous process as consultants take into account developmental reports, behaviour and parents’ observations. Consultants are not objective and hitherto have had to rely on past assessments to inform new ones. But a new tool promises to mitigate against potential errors by tracking children’s eyes – specifically, by tracking their eye movements while watching videos of other children interacting. The premise of the test is that a child with suspected autism would not be expected to look at facial and hand gestures, whereas a child without autism would. Two studies released this week suggest the tool could help clinicians diagnose children with more certainty and as young as 16 months (the US Centers for Disease Control state that a professional assessment is usually accurate at 2). This isn’t about replacing clinicians, but giving the possibility of an extra biomarker to support assessments and help close the current gaps in diagnosis for gender, race and social class.
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