Computer Game Detects Possible Signs of Autism in Children

1 in 100 boys suffers from autism, and 1 in 166 of all children (guess that makes girls a bit more than 1 in 200?). I’ve been seeing a lot more about this lately, and these numbers got my attention – the problem is far far more common than other childhood diseases we have heard a lot about, such as Type 1 diabetes, muscular dystrophy or childhood leukemia. Even more commonly, 1 in 10 children may have dyslexia.

A small company in Baltimore, Learning for Children, has produced a CD-ROM game carefully designed to help with early detection of autism and dyslexia.

Here’s their PR from their home page. I leave it intact despite being PR because 1) what they’re doing should be encouraged and supported and 2) this is a great good summary of what, why and how they did this:

Find out if Your Child Has Early Signs of Dyslexia or Autism!

Our fun computer games can detect clues of Autism in children ages 3-5 and Dyslexia in children ages 3-9

Parents and teachers get immediate, confidential feedback!

* One in every 166 children suffers from Autism- National Institutes of Health
* National Institutes of Health also estimates 1 in 10 children have Dyslexia

Children dislike tests. They know they are being tested because something is “wrong with them.” Learning for Children’s computer-based system is based on low stress, low anxiety, fun and rewarding games in which a child is totally unaware they are being tested. This method results in a true measurement of a child’s ability or disorder.

The local TV news story about this is only a minute long, and worth watching – just click play. Mr. McCroy answered my immediate hesitation by emphasizing that “the game is not a substitute for professional testing.”

What led me to find this was more good news, that the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation has reviewed and endorsed the game. Some of you may have seen Doug and his wife actively working to help fight autism – their foundation, named for their son, who diagnosed with autism at age 3, helps thousands of families affected by autism.

For some of you who might like technical details of how a game can do this, here’s a snippet from the press release:

A key sign of autistic behavior is the inability to deal with random
sequences. Therefore, the arrangement in Learning for Children’s games is
changed each time they are played. The analysis of play pays particular
attention to the number of attempted answers made by a child, as well as
their performance in games, which can reveal specific inabilities. As
children play, the system tracks the number of incorrect and correct
answers, as well as attempts made, in a private, password-protected record.
A parent or teacher then uses this information to decide if further testing
is warranted. Learning for Children is proud to donate 10% of all sales to
the Doug Flutie Jr., Foundation for Autism.

It’s not hard for me to imagine how the pattern of successful or incorrect answers to different kinds of questions and different screen presentations could suggest a need for further testing. And if the nature of the product was not enough to make you appreciate that Learning for Children is doing Good Work, please read that last sentence again. 🙂

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4 thoughts on “Computer Game Detects Possible Signs of Autism in Children

  1. Detecting Autism

    Got Schwartz? has a great little piece on a video game that’s been designed to detect autism in children. As theschwartz points out, Autism is one of the more serious childhood diseases:
    1 in 100 boys suffers from autism, and 1 in 166 of all ch…

  2. Eric says:

    Personally I don’t think any parent would want to buy a game that would show their child to be autistic. Most parents instinctively know something is up and I am guessing they would also not need to know.
    Maybe if it showed a severity and a means to improve, it would be mildly appealing. Not for me though.

  3. This is honestly amazing technology. I love reading about new ways that software are helping kids in any way possible.
    Thanks for this…

  4. This is an amazing feat. Don’t listen to the nay sayers. While no parent wants to learn that their child has autism, the earlier it can be detected the better the prognosis for the little one. I wish you much success.

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