(CBS 5) — If you suspect your child might have autism, getting answers as fast as possible can be crucial. A researcher may have found a way to unlock the mysteries of the puzzling disorder in just minutes.
Professor Dennis Wall of the Harvard Medical School created a test that requires just seven questions and a quick home video.
“Being able to detect something as early as possible and intervene with therapy as early as possible is something that I’m very passionate about,” Wall said.
His passion comes from his sister-in-law, who has autism, and he has seen firsthand the impact the disorder can have on a family.
Getting kids needed therapy as early as possible is the goal at the Wall Lab. Currently the average diagnosis age for autism is around five years old.
“Getting diagnosed at five means that you’ve passed through critical developmental windows where early behavioral therapy would have had an impact,” Wall explained.
The traditional autism diagnosis takes hours. Families have to go to a doctor’s office, fill out lengthy forms, and be evaluated throughout the day. Wall’s approach is completely online with no waiting.
At the Wall Lab, the key is access. Anyone can send in the home videos and answer a survey online. Wall and his team of trained researchers score the videos while they watch.
A computer program then crunches the numbers to get an instant diagnosis.
“We can do this for a much greater percentage of the population and do so repeatedly,” Wall said.
Wall said kids are normally more relaxed at home than in the doctor’s office.
“Because he or she is operating within and behaving within their home environment, with their siblings and so on, we are able to see the signs much more easily and much more rapidly,” he said.
Right now the Wall Lab is still testing the program. So far, it’s been right nearly every time.
Bill Skillman would have jumped at the chance to have had access to a program like this when his daughter was young.
Katie is now 25 years old and Skillman remembers meeting with specialists for hours when she was little.
“It was like sculpting the fog. You struggle through and you do the best you can,” said Skillman.
Katie never received an official diagnosis as a child, but the family believes it is autism. Skillman said Wall’s approach “provides an avenue to just get there early and start to make a difference in your kid’s life.”
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