TUESDAY, April 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new online procedure could cut from hours to minutes the amount of time it takes to accurately diagnose autism in young children, resulting in earlier treatment, a new report by Harvard Medical School researchers says.
The process relies on seven questions plus a short home video of an individual child.
The research team said its method could reduce by nearly 95 percent the time it takes to diagnose autism and could be easily included in routine child screening practices, greatly increasing the number of at-risk children who get checked for the disorder.
"We believe this approach will make it possible for more children to be accurately diagnosed during the early critical period when behavioral therapies are most effective," Dennis Wall, an associate professor of pathology and director of computational biology initiative at the Center for Biomedical Informatics, said in a medical school news release.
The research is published in the April 10 online edition of the journal Nature Translational Psychiatry.
Currently, children being evaluated for autism typically take a 93-part questionnaire and/or an examination that assesses several types of behaviors. These evaluations must be performed by a trained clinician and can take up to three hours to complete.
In many cases, there is a delay of more than a year between initial signs of autism and a diagnosis. This is due to waiting times to see a professional who can administer the tests and deliver the formal diagnosis, Wall explained.
He and his colleagues examined data from more than 800 people who were diagnosed with autism and found that only seven questions were needed to diagnose autism with nearly 100 percent accuracy.
The researchers also found that a shorter assessment of behavioral traits could be used to evaluate children, and this could be achieved by viewing short home video clips of childr
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