iPad Games Could Diagnose Autism in Children

Diagnosing children with autism could get easier – by introducing the user of iPad games into the process, according to findings published in Scientific Reports.

Diagnosing children with autism could get easier — by introducing the user of iPad games into the process, according to findings published in Scientific Reports.

Researchers from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow used iPads embedded with technology to track hand movements made by the user in order to provide a potential new computational marker for the early identification of autism. The participants were 37 children aged three to six years old in combination with 45 age and sex matched typically developing children. The researchers believed this would be a less intrusive and more accessible way to diagnose the disorder.

"We have shown that children with autism can be identified by their game play patterns on an iPad,” Jonathan T. Delafield-Butt, a senior lecturer in child development and researcher in the study, said in a press release. “This is potentially a major breakthrough for early identification of autism, because no stressful and expensive tests by clinicians are needed. Early detection is important as this can allow parents and children to gain access to a range of services support.”

Calling it an unexpected finding, the researchers reported that the iPad game identified children’s motor patterns and matched it to autism with 93% accuracy.

“This new ‘serious game’ assessment offers a cheaper, faster, fun way of testing for autism,” Delafield-Butt continued. “This study is the first step toward a validated instrument.

After reviewing the data, the researchers found that the patterns consisted of greater forces within a gesture, and those gestures were faster and larges across more space in children with autism.

“Interestingly, our study goes further in elucidating the origins of autism, because it turns out that movement is the most important differentiator in the game play data,” concluded Delafield-Butt in the statement. “In other words, it is not social, emotional, or cognitive aspects of the game play that identify autism. Rather, the key difference is in the way children with autism move their hands as they touch, swipe, and gesture with the iPad during the game.”

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