Behavioral Imaging for Autism Science (BIAS) Project
Dr. Lynn Perry
University of Miami
About this study
More than 1 in 60 children in the United States are reported to have autism spectrum disorder (ASD) —which is characterized by social communication deficits and repetitive behaviors—with estimate annual societal costs of $35 billion. Early diagnosis of autism is vital for promoting the optimal development of affected children, but Black and Latino children receive later diagnoses than their White peers. Likewise, diagnosis rates are lower for girls than boys. Culturally-based differences in behavior and differences in how behavior is evaluated may contribute to these disparities. New, economical technologies will be deployed to objectively measure autism-relevant behavior and language use in a diverse group of three-year-old boys and girls. This will help determine how objective behavior measures may differ with respect to culture and biological sex during autism assessment, and mother-child interaction.
This project approaches ethnicity and sex differences from an innovative big behavioral data perspective. Determining how ASD-related behaviors vary by context, culture, and sex can inform treatment decisions that are tailored to the child and setting thereby reducing health disparities. Movement toward objective means of quanitfying ASD symptoms has the potential to guide clinical assessmment and referral, increase the reach of screening, decrease time to diagnosis, and reduce ethnic and sex-based disparities. Objective measurements across contexts interpreted from a cultural perspective can be used to inform parents and clinicians about the consistency of children’s ASD symptoms and effectiveness of context-based interventions.
From my time as an undergraduate, I was fascinated by the role of social interactions in supporting children’s language development and the apparent ease with many children learned new words. But I then noticed the vast individual differences that existed in these interactions and in learning among children with ASD. As a faculty member at the University of Miami I began asking questions about individual differences in social interaction and language development in this population. Because ASD is characterized by impairments in children’s social communication behaviors, understanding patterns of behavior and development within the ASD population is necessary for any theory about the mechanisms of social communication development. My background studying language development at both micro levels (e.g., what does it take to learn an individual word) and macro levels (e.g., how does the general quality of a child’s input relate to language abilities) makes me uniquely qualified to conduct the proposed research.
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