Scientists have developed a novel screening tool capable of detecting signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental delays in children as early as eight months old.
Michael Lewis, Ph.D., founding director of the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School Autism Center, and Nish Parikh, CEO of WebTeam Corporation, a global leader in the field of autism management technology, announced the availability of EARLYThree, an easy-to-use iPhone and iPad application downloadable on iTunes. The useful app allows parents to track and record their child's behavior at regular intervals so, if necessary, they can raise concerns with their pediatrician.
"Early signs of autism often go undetected," observes Dr. Lewis, "simply because there are not enough physicians around the world to screen the growing number of children with autism. An ideal time to identify early signs of autism is when a child is six to eight months old, although symptoms may appear anytime during the first three years."
"Finally," Dr. Lewis added, "we have a tool backed by years of clinical research and pediatric practice that has a proven degree of accuracy in the early detection of autism at our fingertips. This is a breakthrough for parents and pediatricians everywhere."
EARLY Three is the culmination of more than 50 years of research on child development, including five longitudinal studies involving 12,000 children, conducted by Dr. Lewis and principal colleague Tara Anne Matthews, MD, FAAP, while completing her three-year fellowship in Developmental Behavioral Pediatrics at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. Research findings, combined with clinical pediatric practice, led Drs. Lewis and Matthews to collaborate with WebTeam - winner of the 2014 Verizon Powerful Answers Award for its autism management technology - in developing a functional tool to help parents and pediatricians screen for signs of autism at its earliest stages.
EARLY Three contains sets of questions that help pediatricians and parents examine a child's behavioral and communicative development at regular intervals to determine if the child is at risk for autism spectrum disorder. The app allows for periodic evaluation at a child's most critical stages of development - eight, 12, 15, 18, 24 and 36 months. At the end of each screening session, users can view results in a tricolor band of green, yellow and red. Green indicates that a child does not show signs of autism. Yellow indicates that the child is on a stable course of development, but should be monitored for signs of autistic behavior. A red result warns that the child's cognitive abilities are not at the appropriate stage of development and parents should seek further medical evaluation. The user-friendly interface includes options to add multiple video, text and voice notes that can be shared among pediatricians, parents and other caregivers.
"EARLY Three is part of an integrated solution to managing autism," commented Mr. Parikh, whose company has launched ColorsKit - a one-of-a-kind autism management package that could effectively address the global challenge of autism. "We have the resources to enhance existing autism-related teaching tools and build powerful new educational software using assistive mobile technology," Mr. Parikh added.
Autism is the world's fastest growing developmental disorder. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 68 U.S. children (virtually one on every school bus) has an autism spectrum disorder. While the importance of early autism screening is well-documented in medical literature, delays in diagnosis are common.