answers when your child is ill—or something is off but you can't put your finger on what—is an agonizing experience, even if they have no
idea they are suffering. What if you had to wait years?
disorder (ASD) is a developmental condition that can take up to 2 years (or
more) to diagnose. Because of this, doctors encourage parents to "sit
tight" while they figure things out. The problem is that the longer they
wait; the less likely their child is to get the early intervention they need.
the University of Rochester Medical Center have come up with a test to measure
rapid eye movement, which indicates deficits in an area of the brain that plays
a significant role in emotional and social development.
Confused? Let me
break it down.
Think about the
way you shift your attention from one object to another with your eyes. For
example, suppose you're having coffee with a friend when a hot guy walks through the
door. That swift eye movement as you quickly look from your friend to the guy as your fixation point (when you're trying not to be obvious, but failing miserably) is what's
known as a saccade, and they're essential to navigating, understanding and
interacting with the world around us.
Saccades in healthy individuals are rapid and precise; however,
evidence suggests that those with autism spectrum disorders show abnormal eye movement and limited
accuracy when viewing complex stimuli.
In a series of
trials, individuals with spectrum disorders were asked to follow a visual target with their
eyes that appeared in different locations across a screen. The tests were
designed to "trick" a person's focus into overshooting the intended
target. In healthy individuals, the brain would correctly adjust eye movements
as the task repeated itself. Those with ASD, however, continued to miss the
mark, suggesting that the sensory motor controls in the cerebellum were
suggest that assessing the ability of people to adapt saccade amplitudes is one
way to determine whether this function of the cerebellum is altered in ASD,”
said Edward Freedman, Ph.D., an associate professor in the URMC Department of
Neuroscience and co-author of the study.
deficits do turn out to be a consistent finding in a sub-group of children with
ASD, this raises the possibility that saccade adaptation measures may have
utility as a method that will allow early detection of this disorder.”
Let's face it:
Parents will do anything to protect their kids and if they can't pinpoint a
solution, they'll dig deep and find another way. Such is the case for those
who suspect their child may have an autism spectrum disorder.
The good news is
that early ASD detection is in the works. The bad news is there's no telling
how long it will take before this test is available to the general public.
Until then, keep your own eye objective to spot early signs of autism—such as failure to make eye contact with you or to follow objects visually, a child's lack of response to their name or familiar voices talking to them, or not using gestures to communicate—and know that you're