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Harvard Researchers Invite Families to Test Drive ‘PuzzleMouse’

Guest post by Jena Daniels, project coordinator for the laboratory of computational biologist Dennis Wall. Dr. Wall directs Harvard Medical School’s Computational Biology Initiative. He is also an advisor for bioinformatics and genomics at Autism Speaks.

Do you have a child who is between 14 months and 7 years of age? If yes, our team at Harvard Medical School would love your help with our autism research project. 

Currently, families wait an average of 13 months for an autism diagnosis. It requires extensive behavioral analysis by highly trained professionals and takes up to four or more hours. In minority and financially disadvantaged communities, the delay between first concern and diagnosis averages even longer.

Autism Speaks is working to close this gap through its Early Access to Care initiative. (Learn more here.) At the Wall Lab, we’re developing machine-learning methods that could help address the problem on another front.

Now we need your help to further test the effectiveness of our technology using our PuzzleMouse Project. This project asks parents to complete a short questionnaire and upload a brief video of their child interacting with others in a natural environment – for instance at home or on a playdate.

From this information, our machine-learning methods produce risk assessments in minutes rather than hours. Based on our preliminary analyses, these assessments have an accuracy rate greater than 92 percent when compared to a gold-standard clinical diagnosis.

If the accuracy is confirmed through further testing, we see great potential for using the assessment to shorten the time between initial concern and early intervention for autism. Detect early. Intervene early!

We are now just months away from completing a mobile version of our system for rapid detection of autism. But we need your help! Please consider participating in our study by following this link to our website.

Whether or not your child has been diagnosed with autism or is at risk for autism, you can make a difference for countless children and families going through the diagnostic process in the years to come.

Just to summarize, your participation will include:

Submitting a short survey: You will complete ten questions about your child’s day-to-day behavior.

Uploading a 2- to 5- minute video: It should show your child in a social situation such as a birthday party, playdate or even a day at the park with your family.

Thanks so much!

Read more about Dr. Wall’s award-winning PuzzleMouse Project here.


The Autism Speaks blog features opinions from people throughout the autism community. Each blog represents the point of view of the author and does not necessarily reflect Autism Speaks' beliefs or point of view.