Is your child in constant motion?
Does he or she talk incessantly? Or have trouble focusing and prefer to daydream?
If so, they may have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Such is the way the Food and Drug Administration addresses parents on the topic of ADHD, a disorder that affects more than 10% of school-aged children.
Trouble is, most children will display some or all of these symptoms from time to time, maybe even for days on end. That’s what makes ADHD so difficult to accurately diagnose. In fact, it takes observation of months of repeated behavior for even an experienced physician or educator to make an informed diagnosis.
In an attempt to make things a little clearer, the FDA has approved a new ADHD test that can be completed in schools via video conferencing. And, with a little progressive thinking, the technology could become a one-stop-shop for detecting all kinds of maladies that commonly occur in childhood.
FDA-Approved Video Conferencing Care
In April this year, Swedish company Qbtech was given clearance from the FDA to offer an online test for ADHD, called QbCheck.
The 15 to 20-minute test combines motion-tracking with continuous performance tasks to check for hyperactivity, inattention, and impulsivity in people aged 6 to 60.
The subject is asked to quickly respond to questions based on simple geometric shapes that appear on screen via a video conference link.
While the person is ostensibly just being asked to focus on one simple task, the video conferencing camera is also capturing the movements of their head and body, searching for wrigglers and squirmers who perform poorly not because they don’t know the answer, but because they have trouble maintaining concentration for even a few short minutes at a time.
The Qbtech product isn’t intended as a stand-alone test for ADHD, but it does offer a fast and efficient way to compare children against standard results from their peers, and to monitor changes over time.
It also lets physicians monitor potentially at-risk children remotely, keeping young people away from scary doctor’s offices and making appointments easier and more convenient for doctors and parents.
Video Conferencing Takes Remote Testing Further
The new remote test is an extension of an existing Qbtech device, which performed the same task within an in-person clinical setting. That original test is well established, having been used more than 250,000 times across the US and Europe.
The remote, video conferencing version could become a permanent fixture in schools and rural doctors’ offices where it can be used to test children regularly as they age.
In fact, as it can take months to properly diagnose ADHD, children could be encouraged to take the test weekly, fortnightly, or monthly as a part of their regular classroom week.
As the new online test removes the need to schedule regular visits to the doctor’s office, it would give physicians a better chance to closely monitor students over an extended time period through quick assessments during their school day, thus meeting the recommended monitoring period for a proper ADHD diagnosis.
The technology is already in place, as more than 30% of U.S. schools currently have video conferencing technology. And where such technology is lacking, the QbCheck could be the catalyst to bring things up to speed. While it requires a motion-sensitive camera, the test can otherwise be performed using inexpensive video conferencing hardware – with the QbCheck camera set to one side when the video call is needed for other reasons.
And those reasons could include other basic medical tests that can be performed online.
The QbCheck could become a part of a broader medical suite offered through a shared video conferencing setup in each school classroom.
Color Blindness and Speech Pathology Tests Online
Many schools currently rely on visits from external health professionals to perform tests for problems such as color blindness, speech disorders, and hearing problems within young students.
In fact, the CDC recommends that trained experts test a child’s hearing at ages 6, 8, and 10, and again at least once during high school. Without an online alternative, there’s little option but to have these experts visit the school in person.
But of course, such tests could readily be provided through video conferencing, saving both sides of the exchange time and money.
The color blindness test takes merely minutes, as children are asked to identify numbers within a palette of colored dots–such as the one shown opposite. People with color blindness cannot differentiate between reds and greens, and are not able to see numbers or letters created by differently colored dots.
A solid internet connection, and a quality HD camera–which costs less than $100 these days–could convert this test to a remote experience, saving a professional the trip into school.
Similarly, the most common test for speech disorders relies on a five-minute evaluation of the way a child pronounces key phrases. The test can unearth the early signs of a range of disorders including muscle weakness, respiratory problems, and even complex issues such as autism.
This too can be transferred to video conferencing, saving schools the organization and cost of yet another expert visit. Again, all that is needed is a clear audio and visual signal, the likes of which are within the reach of the vast majority of US schools.
The test could become one of a battery that could be performed in the classroom, causing students no more anxiety than playing a video game.
Add tests for hearing, balance and coordination, and height and weight, and every child passing through the school system could simultaneously be given a regular health check just by staring into a little camera in a corner of their classroom.
Image Sources: Flickr CC Users John Morgan, Chris Dodson