Autism Diagnosis in Minutes

Autism Diagnosis in Minutes

Researcher Dennis Wall at Harvard Medical School says he can diagnose autism in a matter of minutes

Any parents who have gone through a diagnosis of autism for their child know that it is a lengthy and complicated process.  With the number of cases of autism at an estimated 1 in 88 (an increase from 1 in 110), researchers and doctors are finding a need to diagnose it earlier and quicker.

Wall’s tool utilizes seven online questions and a short home video of the child.  Other diagnostic tools include the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which investigates social interaction and language, and the Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R), which includes no less than 93 questions.  These tools can take hours, so Wall’s proposal of a tool that takes only a few minutes is quite startling and receiving a great deal of skepticism amongst the research and autism community.

Wall’s assessment can be taken at home, and the child would not even have to see a clinician.  The two- to five-minute video of the child playing in his home environment, along with the answers to seven questions completed online, is evaluated by a trained analyst.  The analyst then answers eight additional questions and is able to provide a diagnosis.

Wall compared his results to over 2,700 ADI-R tests, and he found the accuracy of his tool stacks up well against the other assessments.  Wall says he wants every family to have access to a diagnosis. 

Skeptics, including Catherine Lord, developer of the ADOS, say that Wall’s assessment tool does not provide an adequate diagnosis.  She says that clinicians still need to speak with and interact with the child in question.

Wall agrees that the other assessment tools are valid, but he says they are impractical.  People in rural areas might not have access to a clinician who can diagnose autism, and the age at which children are diagnosed (age four or later) is too late to receive proper early intervention and treatment.  Wall hopes that his assessment tool can match the increasing rate of autism and help children with autism receive care sooner than before.

Photo by Playingwithbrushes

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Written by: Cara Batema See other articles by Cara Batema
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