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iPad Game May Help to Diagnose Autism

iPad Game May Help to Diagnose Autism

A new UK study suggests autism could be diagnosed by allowing children to play games on smart phones and tablets.

University of Strathclyde researchers believe the technology could offer an accessible and less intrusive way to diagnose the developmental disorder.

Dr Jonathan Delafield-Butt, of Strathclyde’s Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and colleagues used fun iPad games to track players’ hand movements — gathering information that can help identify autism.

The study, appears in the Nature group journal Scientific Reports.

Dr Delafield-Butt, a Senior Lecturer in Child Development, said: “We have shown that children with autism can be identified by their gameplay patterns on an iPad.

“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.

“This new ‘serious game’ assessment offers a cheaper, faster, fun way of testing for autism. But more work is needed to confirm this finding, and to test for its limitations.

“This study is the first step toward a validated instrument. Interestingly, our study goes further in elucidating the origins of autism, because it turns out that movement is the most important differentiator in the gameplay data.

“In other words, it is not social, emotional, or cognitive aspects of the gameplay 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.

“This unexpected finding adds new impetus to a growing scientific understanding that movement is fundamentally disrupted in autism, and may underpin the disorder.”

Anna Anzulewicz, Director of Research at Harimata, a company that develops mobile technology for improving early assessment of developmental disorders, said, “Early assessment of autism allows timely therapeutic intervention, but professional diagnosis of the disorder is difficult and time-consuming.

“Our aim was to develop a test that would be intuitive, fast, fun and engaging for the children. iPad-based games seemed to be perfect, and they are embedded with powerful sensors, which allow for the precise measurement of the children’s play dynamics.”

In the study, researchers examined movement data gathered from 37 children with autism, aged three to six years. The children were asked to play games on smart tablet computers with touch-sensitive screens and embedded movement sensors.

Investigators discovered autistic kids displayed distinct play patterns including greater forces at contact and a different distribution of forces within a gesture. Gesture movements were also faster and larger, and used more space.

“These data support the notion disruption to movement is a core feature of autism, and demonstrate autism can be computationally assessed by fun, smart device gameplay.”

Autism spectrum disorder is a childhood neurodevelopmental disorder, and its global prevalence is estimated at one in 160 children.

Source: University of Strathclyde

iPad Game May Help to Diagnose Autism

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2016). iPad Game May Help to Diagnose Autism. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 26, 2018, from https://psychcentral.com/news/2016/08/31/ipad-game-may-help-to-diagnose-autism/109302.html

 

Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 31 Aug 2016
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 31 Aug 2016
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.