Marcus Autism Center, a subsidiary of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, has developed the first biomarker-based, eye-tracking diagnostic technology now available to help diagnose autism called EarliPointTM Evaluation.
Researchers Ami Klin, PhD and Director of Marcus Autism Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Division Chief of Autism and Developmental Disabilities at Emory University School of Medicine, and Warren Jones, PhD and Director of Research at Marcus Autism Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, spent more than 20 years studying early signs of autism to develop an effective and objective biomarker to aid in early diagnosis. Results of two of their research studies have been simultaneously published in The Journal of The American Medical Association (JAMA) and JAMA Network Open present data to validate the tool’s use in the early diagnosis of autism.
EarliPointTM Evaluation is authorized for use in children between 16 and 30 months of age to aid in the diagnosis and assessment of autism. The tool measures children’s looking behavior to provide clinicians with objective measurements of each child’s strengths and vulnerabilities. In the studies published today, these measurements predicted expert clinician assessments with a high degree of accuracy. Objective measurements can help speed the time to diagnosis and speed the start of individualized treatment plans for newly diagnosed children at younger ages, which has been shown to lead to better outcomes for children with autism.
“The published studies show that objective, performance-based biomarkers of children’s looking behavior can help clinicians by reducing the time required for accurate autism diagnosis from multiple hours of clinician assessment to as little as 12 minutes of objective measurements,” said Klin. “The tool collects data at 120 times per second and, within 12 minutes of video watching, we can compare moment-by-moment looking behavior of a child and measure thousands of divergencies to compare to typically developing peers.”
By enabling accurate and early diagnosis, EarliPoint Evaluation has the potential to help clinicians change the trajectory of children’s lives and help empower the healthcare system to better address autism in the U.S. – and beyond.
“If diagnosed earlier, child and family supports can also happen earlier. Earlier supports help children by capitalizing on greater neuroplasticity at younger ages. Currently, only one in four children with autism is identified before age three. Our hope is that this tool can help alleviate this enormous public health challenge with earlier diagnoses and treatment,” said Jones. “The implications of these results are that children who face long wait times and multiple referrals before being diagnosed at age four or five may now be able to obtain a diagnosis before age three.”
To use the device, children watch video scenes of social interaction on a portable tablet. As they watch, their looking behavior is monitored moment-by-moment to determine what social information the children look at and what they do not. Reviewing the data, which includes a personalized and detailed report with visualizations from the test, clinicians use the tool to provide the family with a timely and objective diagnosis, together with measures of the levels of each child’s social disability, verbal ability, and non-verbal learning skills.