More than 1% of children in the U.S. are diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Research has long indicated that the behavioral signs of this disorder can be observed very early in a child’s life. New early intensive behavioral discoveries update prior findings on children up to age 12 (Vanderbilt University Medical Center, 2014). Most of the studies include extensive observation and analysis of a child's typical behavior. Though these methods are nonintrusive, they can take a lot of time to execute and they require highly trained observers.
A new method of observation is being studied at both Duke University and the University of Minnesota that allows low-cost computer vision tools to measure and identify ASD behavioral signs based on components of the Autism Observation Scale for Infants (AOSI). Specifically, algorithms in the software measure the child’s responses to general ASD risk assessment tasks and activities outlined by the AOSI that assess visual attention by tracking facial features. To date, results show that the proposed computer vision tools can capture critical behavioral observations and potentially augment the clinician's behavioral observations obtained from real in-clinic assessments (Hashemi et al., 2014). The computer vision method performed very well in comparison to the expert clinician and outperformed the three other nonexperts.
In addition to providing a low-cost tool to identify ASD, this new method would provide precise quantitative measurements for tasks assessing infant visual attention, such as the AOSI tasks, improving the shareability of clinical records (Hashemi et al., 2014). Furthermore, new behavioral patterns could also be discovered and archived using this method.
Early detection of developmental disorders can benefit child outcomes. If validated in future research, this new method could significantly reduce the effort to recognize ASD in infants and young children.
Hashemi, J., Tepper, M., Spina, T., et al. (2014, June 22). Computer Vision Tools for Low-Cost and Noninvasive Measurement of Autism-Related Behaviors in Infants. Autism Research and Treatment. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/aurt/2014/935686/
Vanderbilt University Medical Center. (2014, August 6). Behavior-focused therapies help children with autism, study shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140806161559.htm