A scientist from Hong Kong has devised a method using machine learning and artificial intelligence to examine retinas of children who are as young as six years to diagnose early childhood autism. This tool can identify children who are at a higher risk of autism. Scientists are planning to come up with a commercial product this year. Dr. Benny Zee from the Chinese University of Hong Kong has said that retinal eye scans can help diagnose the signs of autism in early childhood and it will improve the treatment outcomes. Zee has said that early intervention in childhood is very crucial, as children are still growing and developing; therefore, it improves the chances of treatment success. Scientists have used a high-resolution camera along with new computer software that examines a combination of factors such as fiber layers and blood vessels in the eye. Dr. Benny Zee has said that the new technology will help identify children who are at risk of autism and include them in treatment programs as early as possible.
Around 70 children have been tested in the study using the new technology. Nearly 46 of them have been dealing with autism. The study has included a control group of 24 children to compare the findings. Experts have revealed that the new tool has been able to detect children with autism 95.7 percent of the time accurately. The average age of the children has been 13 years. The youngest children who have been included in the study have been 6 years. Many autism specialists have lauded the findings of the scientists. However, they have said that there is a stigma attached to the neurological disease, as parents are often reluctant to accept that their children are dealing with autism even if there are clear signs. The findings of the new study have been released in the journal Eclinical Medicine, which is a peer-reviewed journal.
Dr. Caleb Knight, who runs a private autism treatment center, has said that he has witnessed that many times parents remain in denial mode and do not accept that their children are suffering from autism. He has said that if there is a diagnostic test or biological marker like this for autism, it will help parents to overcome the denial period much faster. Therefore, it will help children with autism to get the treatment more quickly. The Hong Kong government officials have said that usually, children who are suffering from autism need to wait for 80 weeks to consult a specialist in the public medical sector. However, experts have said that the findings of the study are going to be a supplemental tool to a professional evaluation by certified health care experts.