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Google Helps Autistic Kids Read Facial Expressions

As autistic children interact with others, the app identifies and names their emotions through the Google Glass speaker or screen.

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In this technology, the child or adult wears light, computerised Glasses and sees and hears special feedback geared to the situation. Flickr
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Children with autism were able to improve their social skills by using a smartphone app paired with Google Glass — an eye-wearable device — to help them understand the emotions conveyed in people’s facial expressions, according to a pilot study.

Autism is a serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability to communicate and interact.

However, the therapy, named “Superpower Glass” developed by the researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine, uses an app that provides real-time cues about people’s facial expressions to a child wearing Google Glass.

The Superpower Glass is based on applied behaviour analysis in which a clinician teaches emotion recognition using structured exercises such as flash cards depicting faces with different emotions.

Google Glass
Autistic kids can now better identify expressions. IANS

The device, which was linked with a smartphone through a local wireless network, consists of a glasses-like frame equipped with a camera to record the wearer’s field of view, as well as a small screen and a speaker to give the wearer visual and audio information.

As autistic children interact with others, the app identifies and names their emotions through the Google Glass speaker or screen.

After one to three months of regular use, parents reported that children with autism made more eye contact and related better to others.

For the study, published online in npj Digital Medicine, 14 families tested the Superpower Glass setup at home for an average of 10 weeks with three 20 minute sessions per week.

Google Glass. (Wikimedia Commons)

Also Read: Study: iPhone App Effective for Screening Toddlers With Autism

A few weeks into the trial, children began to realise that people’s faces hold clues to their feelings.

In addition, six of the 14 participants had large enough declines in their scores to move down one step in the severity of their autism classification.

This treatment could help fill a major gap in autism care due to a shortage of trained therapists, as children may have to wait as long as 18 months after an autism diagnosis to begin receiving treatment, the researchers noted. (IANS)

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Risk of Autism in Kids Associated with Mother’s Pesticide Levels

In addition, the odds of children having autism with intellectual disability were increased more than twofold with maternal DDE levels above this threshold

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Mothers' pesticide levels linked to autism risk in kids. Pixabay

Elevated pesticide levels in pregnant women are associated with an increased risk of autism among their children, says a study.

Autism is a complex neurodevelopmental disorder with largely unknown causes. It is characterised by problems with communication, difficulty relating to people and events, and repetitive body movements or behaviours.

“These findings provide the first biomarker-based evidence that maternal exposure to insecticides is associated with autism among offspring,” the researchers said.

The study, published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry, examined whether elevated maternal levels of persistent organic pollutants are associated with autism among children.

Persistent organic pollutants are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world.

The researchers, including Professor Alan Brown from Columbia University Medical Centre in the US, analysed levels of DDE, a breakdown product of the pesticide DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane).

These findings provide the first biomarker-based evidence that maternal exposure to insecticides is associated with autism among offspring
These findings provide the first biomarker-based evidence that maternal exposure to insecticides is associated with autism among offspring. Pixabay

Although DDT and other persistent organic pollutants were widely banned in many countries decades ago, they persist in the food chain, resulting in continuous exposure among populations.

These chemicals transfer across the placenta, resulting in potential prenatal exposure among nearly all children.

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The researchers evaluated levels of DDE in maternal serum samples drawn from more than 750 children with autism and matched control participants from a national birth cohort study, the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism.

The odds of autism among children were significantly increased in mothers whose DDE levels were elevated (defined as the 75th percentile or greater).

In addition, the odds of children having autism with intellectual disability were increased more than twofold with maternal DDE levels above this threshold, the study said. (IANS)