How AI can help in early detection of autistic kids, Health News, ET HealthWorld

How AI can help in early detection of autistic kids, Health News, ET HealthWorld

by Saranya RengarajArtificial intelligence (AI) technology is impacting our lives in every possible way, especially in healthcare. According to a recent report, AI is able to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD) early on in children and that, too, almost perfectly, according to findings to be presented in Chicago this week at a Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) meet.The innovative system studied specialized brain MRIs to diagnose autism in children with 98.5% accuracy. A team of researchers from the University of Louisville say they have developed a three-stage system to analyse and classify diffusion tensor MRI (DT-MRI) of the brain. DT-MRI detects how water moves along white matter zones in the brain and, thus, indicates the level of connectivity between brain regions. The team’s machine learning (ML) algorithm compares the marker patterns in the brains of children with autism to those of normally developed brains with a near-perfect record of diagnosing autism among infants. According to Mohamed Khudri, a member of the research team and a visiting research scholar at Louisville University in Kentucky, the algorithm they have developed is trained to identify areas of deviation and diagnose whether someone is autistic or neurotypical. The system enables early detection of autism in infants below two years of age. Therapeutic intervention before three years of age can lead to better results, including the possibility of people with autism to reach greater independence and higher IQs.ASD is a brain developmental disorder that affects the ways in which people behave, communicate and interact with others. Since autism is a complex disorder and can have many symptoms, it requires a specialist to diagnose it. According to a recent ETHealthWorld report, nearly 18 million people in India have been diagnosed with ASD. And nearly 1%-1.5% of children between two and nine years of age have been diagnosed with autism. It is also believed that boys are four times more prone to autism than girls.Autism can be detected by three main differences—behaviour, communication and social interaction. Children with autism may display challenging behaviours and have difficulty interacting with people, among others. For instance, these children may not use facial emotions, such as smiles; hand gestures, such as waving and pointing; or words to communicate. They may, instead, pull their parents towards a particular thing they would like to have.Even today, the term, ‘autism’, is unknown to many people in India and autistic individuals are branded ‘mentally retarded’ in most cases. In countries such as India, because of lack of awareness and scarcity of resources and trained professionals, most autism cases go undiagnosed until the children are in their teens, making it difficult to develop their skills and integrating them into society. What actually causes autism is still not understood completely, but some researches indicate genetic factor to be a strong reason. If one child is found to be autistic in a family, chances are more that the second child will also be autistic.Basic DetectionEven before going to a specialist or a formal screening, children generally visit their paediatrician or family doctor for regular checkups during the first few years of their life. These visits basically include monitoring of developmental skills when a doctor or nurse talks to the mother or caregiver about milestones in various areas—speaking, playing, learning and behaving—to assess a child’s growth pattern. It can be the first step in learning if a child is showing any signs of autism or any other developmental disabilities—such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Down syndrome, or any other issues.Benefits of Early DetectionEarly detection of autism enhances and supports early integration into society and mainstream schooling. This can be done through therapies to develop an autistic child’s behavioral, communication and social skills. This will help in improving a kid’s overall quality of life as they grow older.Early intervention programmes can begin as soon as ASD is diagnosed—even as early as one and a half to two years of age when an infant’s brain is in the developing stage. Treatments are likely to have faster effect at an early age than in the later stages of life.Some of the main early intervention programs are Applied behavior analysis, PRT, speech therapy, etc. The child can also get access to classroom accommodations to support their learning skills.Early intervention programmes help children learn basic skills that get delayed Communication, Social Interaction, Physical Strength, Emotion Skills and Thinking. Improving these skills can lower the frustrations in an autistic kid. Children who experience communication issues can display more challenging behaviours later on.Saranya Rengaraj, Founder-Director of Third Eye – Center for Autism(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld does not necessarily subscribe to it. shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person / organisation directly or indirectly.)

Published On Dec 14, 2023 at 05:40 AM IST

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