Using This New App Can Help Improve Early Detection and Screening for Autism

The new Autism & Beyond app encourages parents of kids with ASD to share parts of their daily lives with researchers, to help improve autism diagnosis and screening.
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Diagnosing autism might get easier soon thanks to a partnership between Apple and scientists at Duke University. Earlier this month, Apple announced the release of ResearchKit, an app that allows researchers and developers to set up easy-to-do tasks, surveys, and more for users. The goal is to allow users to easily and safely contribute to medical research. Currently, researchers are gathering data on many health conditions, including ASD—the "Autism & Beyond" app can be downloaded here.

With the ASD app, Duke researchers hope to use the data they receive from users to help them spot signs of developmental delays at an earlier age. "Autism & Beyond combines well-established screening questionnaires with a new video technology that makes it possible to analyze the emotions of children so that we may one day be able to automate the screening for conditions such as autism and anxiety," said Ricky Bloomfield, director of mobile technology strategy and assistant professor of internal medicine and pediatrics at Duke University. "ResearchKit enables us to put an entire medical study in a single app, reaching so many more people than we ever could before."

When users join the study, they can choose how to share their information with the researcher behind the app—they can either send video recordings or just a data file with no video.

This app—and the idea of gathering health data remotely, away from labs and in the course of daily living—is an exciting concept, especially for kids with autism (whose early signs might be missed in quick well-child checkups). I can't wait to hear more about it, and I think it's perfect for parents who have questions about whether or not thier children are on the spectrum.

Jamie Pacton lives near Portland where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at www.jamiepacton.com, Facebook (Jamie Pacton), and Twitter @jamiepacton.

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