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Researchers Go to Work on Early Identification Tool For Autism

Research shows that the earlier a child with autism is diagnosed, the more successful interventions can be. But the median age for diagnosis is when a child is about 6 years old—fairly late in the world of "early" interventions.

But an article in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that researchers at Georgia Tech hope to create a computerized screening tool that makes it possible for children with autism to get diagnosed sooner.

Tech is leading a team of universities that won a $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation to develop computerized tools that could be widely disseminated so regular people with minimal training could assess toddlers for autism.

"I'm fairly confident that there's a lot you can do to complement what the professionals can do," said Abowd, a professor in Tech's School of Interactive Computing.

Within a couple of years, he hopes to roll out a prototype system. And by the end of the five-year grant, he thinks they'll have a sophisticated yet simple tool that can be mass-produced so pediatricians and even daycare operators can screen children for autism.

This would be an exciting program if it comes to fruition. Currently, a child's age at diagnosis is linked to all kinds of factors, from the child's sex to where he or she lives. Computerized screening might smooth out that variability, by giving doctors a clue that there are further issues with a child that need exploring.

Hat tip to the Council For Exceptional Children Smartbrief.

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