ResearchKit is an open source framework introduced by Apple that allows researchers and developers to create powerful apps for medical research. Most research is limited to who can be recruited based on geographic locations. By expanding clinical trials to a mobile device, researchers can reach a more diverse population of participants and expand the scope of their studies.
Researchers at Duke University have developed a free IOS app called, Autism & Beyond app to learn more about autism in young children living around the world. According to its iTunes description, “Autism & Beyond is a groundbreaking new study of childhood mental health powered by Apple’s ResearchKit. The study aims to test new video technology that can analyze a child’s emotion and behavior. We hope that this technology may one day be used to screen young children in their homes for autism and mental health challenges, such as anxiety or tantrums. We want parents to have tools that will help them understand their children and find help if they need it.”
The Autism & Beyond app is a six-month study, with tests administered at the beginning, three months and six months. Each test takes about 20 minutes to complete. After a guided set of screens that inform users of the purpose of the research and ask their consent to participate and share their data, the app combines questionnaires and short videos to gather information about a child.
Researchers are able to map a child’s reaction to approved stimuli to determine their reaction, which can be linked to possible signs of autism. The idea is that they can amass thousands of these reactions as well as potential autism diagnoses to create an app that can assist in recognizing the disorder, which would be particularly valuable in areas with few child psychologists who specialize in autism.
Dr. Kristen DuMoulin has been a devoted professional to the field of special education and individuals with autism since 1995. She joined Quality Services for the Autism Community (QSAC) in 2002 and is currently the Director of Children’s Clinical Services, where she is responsible for managing the clinical and administrative aspects of the Early Intervention (EI), Special Education Itinerant Teachers (SEIT), Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS) as well as the CPSE and OPWDD evaluation programs. She is a permanently certified New York State Special Education Teacher and School Administrator.