Toddler Remote Assessment of Virtual Eye Tracking and Language (TRAVEL) Study
Many children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD)– particularly in rural towns of North Carolina (NC) – have limited access to services, a disparity in care highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There is a pressing need for remote telehealth tools that can capture core features of the disorder (e.g., difficulties with joint attention (JA)), but to date, limited research exists. Existing remote telehealth tools examining JA are largely observational in design, which, as a method alone does not provide systematically acquired social attention data with which to make best-possible diagnoses. In addition, current tools assessing JA often put considerable reliance on caregivers and take a large amount of time. The purpose of this study is to test the feasibility of a novel, at-home eye tracking and language program (the Toddler Remote Assessment of Virtual Eye tracking and Language (TRAVEL) Tasks) that measures JA virtually in toddlers with ASD. We aim to develop the TRAVEL Tasks within autistic children and neurotypical controls as a screening tool for ASD that will be associated with parent reported surveys used as ASD screeners and to characterize autistic symptoms: the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS-2) and the Child Behavior Checklist for ages 1½-5 (CBCL 1½-5). In the spirit of the quote “think globally, act locally,” we aim to improve ASD diagnosis and characterization in at-risk children in North Carolina to ensure more reliable diagnoses needed to acquire necessary early intervention services.