Autism is an extremely complex diagnosis. Parental insight, physician observations and hours of data can factor into determining whether a child actually has the condition or is just a little on the quirky side.
Now a Harvard researcher, Dennis P. Wall, has published research about a Web-based tool he developed that promises to diagnose autism in minutes, not hours — a proposition that Wall has floated for some time now and has some autism experts so skeptical they’re not even willing to speak on the record about it.
Wall’s reliance on a quick questionnaire and video of the child playing could supplement or replace more comprehensive exams such as the commonly used behavior-based Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS), which evaluates social interaction, language impairments and autism-specific behaviors, and the more intensive, 93-question Autism Diagnostic Interview, Revised (ADI-R). Together, these evaluations can take four hours or even longer, which Wall says is simply too long. Instead, Wall’s method would not even require the child to be seen by a clinician; it relies on seven questions that parents answer via an online portal and on an examination by a trained analyst of a two- to five-minute home video of the child in a play environment. The diagnosis is completed by the end of the video using the parent’s answers to the seven questions and the video analyst’s answers to eight additional questions.
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