Qatar tests technology to detect autism in minutes

The first study of its kind in the region has found at least one in 100 children in Qatar suffer from some form of the disorder.

Technology is being tested in Qatar that could help doctors diagnose autism in minutes rather than months.

Researchers at the Qatar Biomedical Research Institute are testing a device that diagnoses autism in infants as young as six months old by tracking their eye movement.

\With a success rate of 85 percent, the device picks up eye gaze abnormalities linked to autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Dr Omar El-Agnaf, research team leader, said an early diagnosis makes all the difference.

“The longer a child with autism goes without help, the harder intervention becomes. Therefore early intervention is the key for autism,” he told Al Jazeera.

Getting a diagnosis for ASD in Qatar was not always straightforward.

Faisal, 11, was diagnosed eight years ago.

“Back in the day it felt like, where do I go now? So I did travel to the US tro try to get a proper diagnosis, which I got,” his mother, Hasna, said.

In the first study of its kind in the region, scientists found that at least one in 100 children in Qatar suffer from some form of ASD.

The figure had previously been put at three in every 1,000.

Doctors hope the findings of the study will pinpoint genetic factors that may influence autism and prove useful when it comes to treatment.

Monday marks world autism day. Autism spectrum disorder is a collection of complex disorders that affect a person’s brain development.

The US Centre for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 68 children are affected with autism, while the World Health Organization suggests a prevalence rate of 1 percent, with boys being five times more likely than girls to be affected by the disorder.

Children who suffer from the disorder commonly demonstrate a range of symptoms that include difficulties with communication, social interaction, and restricted repetitive behaviours.