An early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder can improve the lives of everyone affected, but the complex network of causes makes it incredibly difficult to predict. Dr. Ami Klin describes a new early detection method that uses eye-tracking technologies to gauge babies’ social engagement skills and reliably measure their risk of developing autism.
We always think about autism as something that happens later on in life. It doesn’t. It begins with the beginning of life. As babies engage with caregivers, they soon realize that they could gain attention. And they learn soon enough, even before they can utter one word that they can take that attention and move somewhere in order to get things they want.
However autistic babies are much different, as they have difficulties separating between the world of things to the world of people, as this division line is not so clear to them.
So for the past 12 years Dr. Ami Klin has been build these new technologies that are based on eye tracking. This is helping us to see moment by moment what children are engaging with since they born.
What he wants is to embrace that world and bring it into his laboratory, but in order for him to do that, he had to create these very sophisticated measures, measures of how people, how little babies, how newborns, engage with the world, moment by moment, what is important, and what is not.
As part of the new eye diagnosis you could see that new bourn babies love people’s eyes, and it remains quite stable for the next 24 month (see picture below). It goes up a little bit in those initial months. Now, if you observe what’s happening with babies who became autistic it’s something very different. It starts way up here, but then it’s a free fall.
This diagnosis can assist doctors in early identification of autism, and thanks to this you may face in the best way all the consequences that come with it at times, the intellectual disabilities, the lack of language, the profound isolation.
Because after all, they learn about the world almost like about it, rather than learning how to function in it. But this is strength, if you’re working, for example, in technology. And there are those individuals who have incredible artistic abilities. Thanks to an earlier diagnosis you are able not only to improve their communication but also the opportunity to develop their talents.