Laboratory for Innovation in AutismPlay.Care Diagnostic Trial

Innovation in Autism is currently engaged in a multi-site diagnostic trial of Play.Care, an iPad app that has shown promise as an early screening tool for Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). If you are interested in participating in our research, please email us at

What is Play.Care?

Play.Care is an iPad app that takes advantage of advances in consumer technology to make accurate recordings of the way a participants interacts with the games. The app uses the iPad's built-in gyroscope, accelerometer, and touch screen inputs, combined with software developer Harimata's machine learning algorithm, to differentiate between the movement patterns of participants with and without ASD. We are currently engaged in a trial to see if this could be used to aid in diagnosis of ASD. For more details of how the Play.Care app works, please see Anzulewicz et al in Scientific Reports.

Why study movement patterns?

A long literature tradition has classified ASD as a socio-cognitive disorder, neglecting sensory-motor issues. It has been recently proposed that abnormalities in the development of intentional movements are one of the early markers of ASD.  These movement abnormalities are present before problems typically associated with autism, such as deficiencies in social interaction and communication, become apparent.  A large range of motor symptoms have been documented throughout childhood, such as delays in the attainment of motor milestones, poor coordination, unusual gait patterns and difficulties in gross and fine motor skills. Since these motor symptoms are present very early, they can possibly be used to diagnose autism at earlier ages, allowing for early intervention.

How is the trial being conducted?

This trial is being conducted across two sites: in Glasgow and, with the help of our partners at the Gillberg Neuropsychiatry Centre, in Gothenburg, Sweden. We are recruiting children between the ages of 30 months and 5 years (up to the 6th birthday) who are either typically developing or have a diagnosis of ASD or any other neurodevelopmental disorder. This way, we can test the app's ability to distinguish not only between children who are typically developing or who have ASD, but also between movement patterns in ASD and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Children who participate in the trial play two fun, age-appropriate games on the iPad. In addition to obtaining their status as typically developing, having ASD, or another neurodevelopmental disorder, we also ask for clinical or parent/guardian observations, and use tools such as ADOS, ADI, SDQ, and ABAS to find out more about the child's abilities, difficulties, and behaviour. A full trial protocol will be published shortly.