Researchers at Purdue University in the US have initiated a five-year study using a telehealth platform to identify autism markers/symptoms in infants who are at risk of developing the condition.

Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the study will include some families of high-risk infants with neurogenetic conditions, Fragile X and Angelman syndromes.

The participating families will be provided with a telehealth kit comprising of a heart monitor, tablet, items to collect saliva for cortisol measurements, LENA vocal recorder, vest and toys.

They will be trained on conducting tasks that are usually performed in a lab or clinic such as eye movement exercises and heart activity monitoring.

“The first part of the study will work with local families to evaluate the technology and research procedures before families are recruited across the country for home-based telehealth assessment.”

These activities are intended to help track the attention, play behaviours, social communication and motor skills of the children.

Purdue University clinical psychology assistant professor Bridgette Tonnsen said: “About half of our sample will have autism, and what we learn from their developmental milestones can help us specifically identify what risk factors predict autism.

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“We are partnering with the parents to coach them on how to do the research in their homes where the children will be more comfortable rather than travelling long distance to a lab.

“This will be more efficient, cost-effective, more family friendly and, I think, as a result, we will be able to collect more powerful data.”

The findings from the study are expected to aid in providing early targeted therapy for children and help further research with isolated populations.