Objectives: The objective of this research is to test the extent to which patterns of dynamic visual scanning in 18- to 42-month-old children, measured by eye-tracking, can serve as a screening tool, with sensitivity and specificity values above the accepted range for first-level screeners (>80% per Meisels, 1989). We also tested the procedure’s ability to quantify levels of social and communicative disability in individual children.
Methods: Eye-tracking data were collected from a large cohort of children, N = 170, 18 to 42 months of age, while they watched naturalistic video scenes of peer social interaction. Standardized clinical assessment measures (ADOS, ADI, cognitive and language testing) confirmed diagnostic status for ASD and TD children within the cohort. The first 50 consecutive referrals in the ASD group (ASD-1) were used for comparison against the TD group; these children provided a training set with which to develop a model of expected differences between ASD and TD visual scanning. We then tested the remaining ASD children (ASD-2) as an external validation sample. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves were created to analyze sensitivity and specificity.
Results: Preliminary results indicate robust between-group differences in visual scanning between TD and ASD-1 groups. Using this model, the remaining ASD-2 children were classified with sensitivity of 85% and specificity of 77.9%.
Conclusions: This research demonstrates a first step towards an eye-tracking based diagnostic screener intended for children between 18 and 42 months. Further research will test the extent to which such a screener can be optimized and practically deployed.
See more of: Clinical Phenotype
See more of: Symptoms, Diagnosis & Phenotype