Reporting Sera Congi
BOSTON (CBS) – When you suspect your child might have autism, getting answers as fast as possible can be crucial.
But now, a local researcher may have found a way to unlock the mysteries of the puzzling disorder in just minutes.
Harvard Medical School Professor Dennis Wall created a test that just takes 7 questions and a quick home video.
“Being able to detect something as early as possible and intervene with therapy as early as possible is something that I’m very passionate about,” says Professor Wall.
His passion comes from his sister-in-law, who has autism, and he’s seen first-hand the impact the disorder can have on a family.
Getting kids needed therapy as early as possible is the goal at the Wall Lab.
Right now, the average diagnosis age for autism is around 5 years old.
“Getting diagnosed at 5 means that you’ve passed through critical developmental windows where early behavioral therapy would have had an impact,” explains Wall.
The traditional autism diagnosis takes hours. Families have to go to a doctor’s office, fill out lengthy forms, and be evaluated throughout the day.
Wall’s approach is completely on-line with no waiting.
At the Wall Lab, the key is access. Anyone can send in the home videos and answer a survey online. Professor Wall and his team of trained researchers score the videos while they watch.
A computer program then crunches the numbers to get an instant diagnosis.
“We can do this for a much greater percentage of the population and do so repeatedly,” said Prof. Wall.
Wall says kids are normally more relaxed at home than in the doctor’s office.
“Because he or she is operating within and behaving within their home environment, with their siblings and so on, we are able to see the signs much more easily and much more rapidly,” said Wall.
Right now the Wall Lab is still testing this program. And so far, it’s been right nearly every time.
Monson dad Bill Skillman would have jumped at the chance to have had access to a program like this when his daughter was young.
Katie is now 25 years old and Skillman remembers meeting with specialists for hours when she was little.
“It was like sculpting the fog. You struggle through and you do the best you can,” said Skillman.
Katie never received an official diagnosis as a child, but the family believes it is autism. Skillman says Wall’s approach “provides an avenue to just get there early and start to make a difference in your kid’s life.”