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Omaha: 'Quicker, easier' ASD dx; 'drastically shorten waiting lists'

May 2, 2024, KETV, Omaha:  'Drastically shorten our waiting lists': New tool could help diagnose children with autism faster

Listening to music, playing with blocks and a love for watching "Bluey" are all typical hobies for a 2-year-old, but Nicole Vos and Erica Seliga said their son wasn't meeting the normal milestones for his age.

Vos and Seliga said they turned for help after noticing their son's possible developmental delays, first from their school district and then from the Munroe-Meyer Institutet.

"It was a new evaluation method that they had, that they asked if we were willing to try it and kind of told us the same thing, that it was a quicker, easier way," Seliga said.

That method is known as the Early Point Assessment tool.

"It's a really easy way to get a lot of information about kids without having to put them through a lot of testing," Dr. Patricia Zemantic, director of MMI's Autism Diagnostic Clinic, said.

"The camera is looking to see where the child is looking on the screen," Zemantic said.

Once comfortable and actively watching a show they're familiar with, like "Thomas the Tank Engine," Zemantic, said the testing videos depicting different social scenes will begin and clinicians will start tracking the child's eye movement.

"We're able to get information about whether the child's looking behavior is consistent or not consistent with someone with autism spectrum disorder," Zemantic said. "It also gives us an estimate of their verbal abilities and their nonverbal abilities." . . .

Zemantic said that's about half the time of what a normal evaluation takes.

"It's a huge deal," Zemantic said. "So basically, I can see almost three children using this device in the time it would take me to see one child."

Giving parents peace of mind and an idea of what to do next. . . .

And offering clinics like MMI a tool to combat the seemingly endless wait lists.

"We anticipate that it's going to help us drastically shorten our waiting lists," Zemantic said.

The Early Point Assessment tool is FDA-approved for children 16 months to 31 months of age, and while it can give tested children a diagnosis, Zemantic said they recommend always coupling it with an experienced clinician in case further testing is needed. . . .


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