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New Study Aims To Identify Autism Early With Telehealth

Mark Simons
Purdue University

A Purdue University research project aims to identify early autism markers through telemedicine.

The research, led by Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at Purdue University Bridgette Tonnsen, will focus on infants and toddlers with neurogenetic disorders like Fragile X that co-occurs with autism.

"My goal is to understand what are the early risk factors for autism and Fragile X and are those similar or different from those we are detecting in those other high-risk groups?" Tonnsen says.

Fragile X and similar disorders are rare, so Tonnsen says telemedicine will make it easier for families to participate without travel.

Early intervention is known to significantly help children with autism, but early diagnosis is difficult.

Tonnsen says earlier diagnosis can help families plan for care.

"Autism intervention in general is very time intensive and costly, so it becomes a question of resources and how to allocate resources and help families actually access those resources," Tonnsen says.

The telehealth research will allow families with young children to be involved.

"We’re trying to modify our tasks so parents can administer them and we can coach them live in the home to do that," Tonnsen says.

The five-year study will recruit 50 participants from Indiana and then expand to homes around the country.

Tonnsen received nearly $1 million in federal grant funding for the study.