Research from Washington State University reveals an eye test has been developed which could help diagnose children with autism.
Publishing their data in the Neurological Sciences Journal, Washington State University’s researchers believe the test could be a huge step forward for early diagnosis.
The process involves testing the speed at which a child’s eye dilates (when the pupil widens) in response to light.
Among a total of 36 children tested whose pupils had dilated, it was found that the pupils of children with autism took longer to return to their regular size after exposure to a light source (once the light source had been removed).
Intervening during a critical window
Assistant Professor Georgina Lynch said the proof-of-concept study builds on earlier work to support the continued development of a portable technology that could provide a quick and easy way to screen children for autism. Such a tool could help healthcare providers diagnose autism in children at an earlier age.
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“We know that when we intervene as early as ages 18 to 24 months it has a long-term impact on their outcomes,” said Assistant Professor Lynch, who is part of the WSU Elson S. Floyd College of Medicine and worked with autistic children while practicing as a speech-language pathologist.
“Intervening during that critical window could be the difference between a child acquiring verbal speech and staying nonverbal. Yet, after 20 years of trying we still have not changed the average age of diagnosis here in the US, which is four years old.”
With funding from the Washington Research Foundation, Lynch is expanding testing to a group of 300 or more children across a larger number of clinical sites. Data from that study will be used to validate earlier findings and be integrated into a screening device to provide a benchmark providers can use to decide whether or not to refer a child for evaluation.