Autism spectrum disorder: diagnosing with an eye test

Posted 1 month ago by Georgie Waters
A new and simple eye reflex test could be used to help diagnose children with autism spectrum disorder, causing fewer delays than typical assessments [Source: Shuttershock]
A new and simple eye reflex test could be used to help diagnose children with autism spectrum disorder, causing fewer delays than typical assessments [Source: Shuttershock]

Could a simple eye test be used to diagnose children with autism spectrum disorder?

Key points:

  • This new testing method could make it easier to assess children with minimal verbal communication and possible traits of autism spectrum disorder


Assessing a child’s eye reflex could determine the presence of autism spectrum disorder, according to recently released results.

Researchers of the new study focused on the gene of SCN2A which which has now been linked to autism spectrum disorder. The study, with preliminary testing on mice with the SCN2A gene, enabled researchers to determine which children had autism spectrum disorder compared to their neurotypical siblings through eye reflex testing.

The test required participants to wear a special helmet with a mounted camera and turn their heads when requested. The position of their eyes and associated reflexes were monitored by researchers, with differences detected between children with autism spectrum disorder and those without.

Over 205,000 Australian adults and children were reported to have autism spectrum disorder in 2018, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. To learn more about the signs and symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in children, have a look at our article: Signs of autism and the road to diagnosis.

Researchers of another study suggest that possibly up to 35% of children with autism spectrum disorder may have limited verbal communication ability. This statistic highlights the importance of a new testing method that can accurately determine if a child has autism spectrum disorder earlier in life. This eye reflex test does not require a verbal response from the child, meaning that many children could be assessed using this method, regardless of their communication ability.

One of the study’s researchers, Professor Kevin Bender at the UCSF Weill Institute for Neurosciences, believes that this could be a game changer in diagnosing children with autism spectrum disorder.

We can measure it in kids with autism who are non-verbal or can’t or don’t want to follow instructions,” said Professor Bender.

Another researcher, Dr Chenyu Wang is optimistic about the use of this diagnostic method for early intervention in children exhibiting symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

“[…] These first results, using this reflex as our proxy for autism, point to an early window for future therapies,” said Dr Wang.

While new processes and assessments are being developed for diagnosing autism spectrum disorder, learning more about this condition can increase awareness and inclusion in the community.

Professor Bender is hoping that this method of testing children for autism spectrum disorder could be used as the go-to method for assessment.

“If this sort of assessment works in our hands with kids with profound, nonverbal autism, there really is hope it could be more widely adopted,” Bender said.

Each person with autism spectrum disorder is unique, so everyone will have different experiences of living with the condition. However, as with many conditions, society has created myths about autism spectrum disorder. In our article, Autism myths and misconceptions, we debunk some of the most common myths associated with autism spectrum disorder. 

If you’re looking for more information about autism spectrum disorder and want to know more about the current assessments available for adults and children, have a look at our autism resources.


Have you or your child been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder? How did you find the diagnostic process?

Let the team at Talking Disability know your thoughts on social media. 

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