What is this research about?
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD) are lifelong disabilities caused by the exposure of the fetus to alcohol during pregnancy. People born with FASD can have a wide range of problems including poor memory, difficulty learning, problems with language and physical difficulties. They also often have poor life outcomes such as difficulty completing education or being able to work and they often come into contact with the justice system.
The number of people living with FASD in Australia is not known. However, where it has been studied in Fitzroy Crossing in the Kimberley, almost one out of every five children was affected by FASD. It is a common belief amongst researchers and health workers that many children born with FASD have not been diagnosed and therefore are not receiving the therapy and financial support that they need. Currently, diagnosis takes 5-6 hours and requires specialised health professionals (paediatrician, psychologist, occupational therapist, speech therapist etc.) and costs between $3000-$5000.
This research will replicate promising methods from Canada where eye-tracking coupled with advanced statistical models can screen children for FASD with 74.1% accuracy. Before we use this system to screen for FASD in Australia we need to know what is “normal” for eye-movements for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children in Australia and check if this is the same as in Canada. To do this we will collect eye-tracking data for 100 children (50 non-Aboriginal and 50 Aboriginal, half male and half female) aged between 7-12 years old. Having this data will also allow us to make comparisons with children who have neurodevelopmental disorders in the future. The de-identified, aggregated data collected in this study will be used in future research to compare with data collected from children with neurodevelopment disorders, including FASD.
There is a large Stakeholder Reference Group for this project that has representatives from several Western Australian government departments and non-government agencies.
Funder of this Project
FASD Research Australia from the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Centres of Research Excellence grant.
Read more about FASD Research Australia
What are the benefits of this research?
- Taking the first steps to developing a quicker, cheaper screening tool for neurodiversity in children
- Bringing new research and technology from the Kids Brain Health Network in Canada to Australia and fostering stronger collaboration
- One of the first studies collecting eye-tracking data for Aboriginal children in Australia