How Video Technology Helps With Autism Research

Diagnosing autism at an early stage of development can dramatically increase a child’s ability to socially adapt and acquire the skills needed to become a functional adult. And with the proper intervention, some may even become fully independent along with their peers.

 

The Importance of Early Diagnosis

In previous decades, the healthcare community had very little understanding of autism and what it meant for a child to be on the “spectrum.” As a result, there was very little help available. In fact, many people with autism were never diagnosed until adulthood. 

Today, we know that signs and symptoms of autism include:

  • Lack of engagement in pretend play
  • Failure to make eye contact
  • Disdain for physical touch and cuddling
  • Lack of typical emotions as it relates to feelings
  • Repetitive actions and behaviors
  • Unusual reactions to ordinary things
  • Rarely responding to their own name

While autism isn’t something that ever goes away, there is a growing body of evidence to support the power of early intervention. 

“Research has shown that early intervention can improve a child’s overall development,” Autism Spectrum Disorder Foundation (ASDF) explains. “Children who receive autism-appropriate education and support at key developmental stages are more likely to gain essential social skills and react better in society. Essentially, early detection can provide an autistic child with the potential for a better life.” 

Without early diagnosis, children on the spectrum often face increased difficulties and distress that make the underlying condition even more difficult than it already is. These challenges may become apparent in behaviors, social isolation, and the child’s academic experiences in school. 

Once diagnosed, children and their parents soon discover that they aren’t alone. They also become aware of a variety of intervention methods, adaptations, and solutions that can be leveraged to improve quality of life and/or manage some of the behaviors that present challenges.

 

The Power of Video in Autism Diagnoses

Autism can be diagnosed using a variety of methods. In some ways, the lack of a “gold standard” test for autism creates some confusion and variability with diagnoses. Having said that, some common methodologies include:

  • Psychiatric assessments to rule out other possible diagnoses
  • Detailed developmental history to identify particular autistic traits
  • Autism diagnostic observation schedule (60-minute clinical interaction/observation that evaluates social interactions, communication and the child’s imagination and emotional understanding)

This latter method of observation is becoming the closest thing to a “gold standard” test. And part of its efficacy is tied to the growth of video observation, which can be organized into two categories:

 

Home Video Observation

According to a research study out of Stanford University School of Medicine, home videos of children playing and socializing with others may be adequate in providing enough information to provide an initial diagnosis of autism. 

In the study, researchers compared those with autism with children developing at a normal rate. Trained viewers were able to distinguish the former from the latter with an accuracy rate of nearly 90 percent. 

“Non-expert raters watched short videos of 162 children (116 of whom had ASD) in their natural environment,” ASHA explains. “The videos featured the child’s face and hands, opportunities to use toys or other objects, and opportunities for social engagement. The raters, blind to the children’s diagnoses, answered 30 yes/no questions about whether the child made eye contact, expressed emotion and showed other behaviors.”

Based on the answers to these questions, information was fed into eight different algorithms. The most accurate model had a success rate of 87.8 percent. Researchers say the efficacy of these algorithms is based on a carefully selected set of behavioral features that have a high correlation with the presence of autism in early childhood development. 

While home video observation is certainly not a replacement for more qualified observation methods, it could be used as a useful tool for early intervention – paving the way for clinical observation at an earlier age. 

 

Clinical Video Observation

The real power of video comes in the form of clinical video observation. And it’s this category of video observation that’s most encouraging and opportunistic. 

For a child to be diagnosed with autism, it’s important for a trained and certified healthcare professional to observe them in a controlled environment. Traditionally, this has posed problems (as children who are on the spectrum can be thrown off by such a rigid and novel environment). But thanks to video observation, it’s now possible to review symptoms, make assessments, identify patient progress, and initiate initial treatment practices based on observed behavior.

Video recording for autism studies have produced two primary benefits (and a wealth of secondary advantages): 

  1. The first benefit is the ability to diagnose autism more effectively. With no physical or biochemical tests available, observation is the most effective method of identifying spectrum-related behaviors. Video provides better observation opportunities than are available in real-time-only environments. Not only does it provide more information and contextual clues, but it creates a safer and less intimidating environment for the child.
  2. The second major benefit is the speed of diagnosis. There’s a huge difference between diagnosing a child with autism at the age of two versus the age of three or four. By getting a head start, early treatment methods can be initiated. (This improves the child’s ability to be socialized and increases the chances of living a fairly “normal” life.)

Video can also be used as a tool for behavioral modification therapy. The VALT system uses small and unobtrusive IP cameras and high-range, high-quality microphones to help authorized viewers observe and identify an array of factors.

Common installation of the VALT video equipment and software allows for 16TB of storage, or enough space to store 16,000 hours of HD video. And with fixed and mobile installations, there’s optimum flexibility for a variety of settings. 

 

Request a Demo of the VALT System Today

If you’re looking for a way to improve autism diagnosis in a safe and natural environment that ensures better results and more accurate outcomes, VALT from Intelligent Video Solutions could be the perfect fit. Contact us today and request a demo to discover more!

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