Early intervention may significantly impact development of autism syndrome disorders (ASD).

"The software has the potential to automatically analyze a child's eye gaze, walking patterns or motor behaviours for signs that are distinct from typical development," said the app's developer Amy Esler, an assistant professor of pediatrics at University of Minnesota in the US.

These signs would signal to doctors that they need to refer a family to a specialist for a more detailed evaluation, Esler added.Because the programme is non-invasive, it could be useful immediately in homes and clinics.

The study focused on three behavioural tests that can help identify autism in very young children. In one test, an infant's attention is drawn to a toy being shaken on the left side and then redirected to a toy being shaken on the right side.

Clinicians count how long it takes for the child's attention to shift in response to the changing stimulus. In all of the tests, the person administering them not only controls the stimulus, he or she is also counts how long it takes for the child to react.

The new programme allows testers to forget about taking measurements while also providing more accuracy, recording reaction times down to tenths of a second. The results appeared in the journal Autism Research and Treatment.


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