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Autism in Toddlers can be Identified by Eye-Tracking

Any developmental issues in early childhood actually resolve on their own. But, autism in toddlers, if not identified at an early stage can cause problems as the child grows. Although, diagnosing Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in toddlers is not easy. A research, which has been published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, believes that the eye-tracking technology can be useful in identifying autism in toddlers.

Autism Spectrum Disorders: Any disorder belonging to the spectrum of autism disorders affect a child very early in the childhood (usually within the first three years).

  • These disorders affect the brain’s neurology there by leading to developmental impairments in a child, thus affecting the social and cognitive skills.
  • A child as he/she grows would have problems with non-verbal communication and social interaction.
  • The child would like keeping to a particular routine and would resist even the subtlest of changes in the routine.

But, an early diagnosis can pave way to proper treatment, which would be helpful in curbing any issues related to social and cognitive skills.
Eye-Tracking Technology: According to the published result, toddlers as young as 14 months old, if suffering from autism or other related disorders would fix their eyes on geometric shapes rather than on fellow children performing activities.

A total of 110 toddlers between the ages 14-42 months classified as follows were chosen for the research:

  1. 37 children from the 110 were suffering from ASD
  2. 22 children were suffering from developmental issues
  3. the rest were normally developing toddlers.

A video clipping split into two halves-

  1. one side contained geometric shapes
  2. the other video contained children of the same age performing activities like dancing

was shown to the children.

The results were as follows:

  • almost 40 percent of the children were watching the geometric shapes for most of the time
  • a mere 1.9 percent normally developing toddlers spent their time watching the shapes
  • 9 percent of the children with developmental issues spent most of the staring at the shapes
  • finally all the toddlers who spent at least 69 percent of their viewing time on geometric shapes were diagnosed of ASD.

The experiment thus proves that autism in toddlers can be identified at a very early stage given their eye movements and fixation are attracted to geometric shapes.

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