Study soon for early detection of autism
06 Dec 2016 - 1:59
By Fazeena Saleem / The Peninsula
Qatar Biomedical Research Institute of Hamad bin Khalifa University is preparing to begin a research project which will lead to diagnosis of autism in children when they are as young as six months.
An eye tracking tool, face reading camera and language detector will be used to diagnose if the child has symptoms of developing autism.
Until now, autism had been mainly diagnosed by speaking to parents about their child's behaviour, clinical observations and interviews with the subjects. However, it can take time to pick up on the condition — the average age of diagnosis is about four.
Dr Faoud Alshaban (pictured), Senior Scientist, Qatar Biomedical Research Institute of Hamad bin Khalifa University, said, “The new project is one of the translational research, for early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder. Some research centres in the US have started using eye tracking in toddlers at early as six months. We are going to work in collaboration with them to bring these tools. We will not limit ourselves to eye tracking but add a face reading camera to study facial expressions and a tool to monitor blubbing of the baby.”
Selected young babies will be included in the research.
Although there is no cure for autism, studies show that early intervention is effective for improving IQ, language ability, and social interaction in children with autism.
Dr Alshaban is also the co-Lead Principal Investigator of an ongoing Qatar National Research Fund-supported National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) research project ‘Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders in Qatar.’ The three year study is now approaching the final stage.
“At present, no comprehensive survey has yet been conducted to estimate the prevalence of autism in Qatar, and as such, the prevalence rate of autism-spectrum disorders in Qatar is uncertain. Ours is the first fieldwork study conducted to discover the prevalence rate of autism in the country,” said Dr Alshaban.