For parents who suspect their child has autism, the road to diagnosis and treatment can be a long and painful one. Many children must undergo months — if not years — of tests before doctors will confirm a diagnosis and treatment can begin. But a new app hopes to streamline this process and make it easier for health care providers to diagnosis autism and get children started with a treatment plan.

The Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, a Phoenix-based autism research nonprofit, is in the process of developing a smartphone application that doctors could use to diagnose autism based on videos of a child's behavior that have been uploaded onto a website. The aim of the app, called the Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment, would be to reduce the amount of time is takes to diagnose children suspected of having autism so that they can begin treatment sooner. This would be particularly helpful in rural communities where autism specialists are few and far between.  

The center received a $2.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to develop the autism diagnosis app in collaboration with Behavior Imaging Solutions, a Boise, Idaho, medical-technology company, and the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. A spokesperson from the company told USA Today that the center will begin testing the app this summer with a goal to have the app available nationwide as early as 2014.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 88 children have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. Early diagnosis that got kids into treatment sooner could decrease the impact that autism might have on a child's speech, behavior and social dynamic.

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