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Mobile app helps researchers identify developmental delays and diagnose autism among young children

Published: Mar. 15, 2022 at 6:00 PM CDT
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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - For the past three years, Ashley Westphal as taken her daughter Rogue, to MercyOne in Waterloo. During one appointment, she was told that Rogue had sensory processing difficulties.

That’s when she was introduced to BabySteps.

“We actually got introduced to the app prior to her diagnosis. We got diagnosed with autism for her last year in January,” said Westphal.

It’s downloadable for iPhone and android and allows families to upload videos and pictures of their child within their home.

“It was something that we could partake in and get the education we need and also help others in the future with the research they could gather with all the information that they get from it,” said Westphal.

The information gathered from people like Ashley are used by researches like University of Iowa Health Care Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Lane Strathearn.

“Sometimes children behave differently at home where they’re comfortable compared to when they’re at the clinic in an unfamiliar environment,” said Dr. Strathearn.

The goal for medical officials is to get even further ahead of these diagnoses.

They aim to build a foundation in rural areas, like Westphal’s hometown of Evansdale, Iowa, for additional research that begins at pregnancy.

“What happens after childbirth and the early phase after the baby is born. What’s going on in terms of social responses, social experience in that early phase, and can we identify early markers that the course is going slightly off track,” said Dr. Strathearn.

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