When their son, Sage, was 23 months old, Ian and Jessica Mallon were concerned about his development — namely, language delays and sensory issues. It was suggested they check out NODA™ — the Naturalistic Observation Diagnostic Assessment—a smartphone app that’s been proven to expedite the autism diagnostic process.
SARRC developed the concept for NODA and worked in partnership with the Georgia Institute of Technology and Behavior Imaging Solutions to develop the product with a $2.2 million Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).
The app provides prompts to parents — asking them to shoot video in four different situations at home.
“We took the weekend to do it,” Ian says. “The activities were pretty simple. The great part about NODA is that it is really easy.”
The activities they were asked to record were ones they’d be doing anyway — mealtime, bedtime, playtime. The Mallons uploaded their videos through NODA’s secure, confidential platform and waited for them to be viewed by professionals.
But, Ian says, even before they heard back, they started doing some research on their own.
“We started looking at videos online as to what typical behavior looked like versus what kids on the spectrum looked like,” he says. “It was evident by what we were watching that Sage clearly had a lot of the same behaviors as other kids on the spectrum.”
Within a matter of days, the Mallons received confirmation: Sage was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.
“Every experience I’ve heard from others involves multiple appointments over several months to get a diagnosis,” Ian says. “The fact that we could bypass all of that with NODA and start finding resources for Sage quickly was amazing.”
The Mallons set out to get Sage into early intervention therapies.
“We’re really fortunate,” Ian says. “We went from suspicion of autism to services within a month.”
With occupational and speech therapy, Sage has made great strides. Prior to treatment, he was non-verbal.
“Sage has progressed tremendously,” Ian says. “He became verbal within two months of his diagnosis.”
And while Sage has communication skills he didn’t have before, he still struggles to create social connections with his peers.
“The biggest thing with autism, in general, is realizing that it’s never going to go away,” Ian says. “But you get more tools. And our hope is that he’s only 2, so there’s time for him to continue to progress.”
There are moments that change your life in profound ways, Ian says. Danny suggesting NODA was one of those moments.
“For some families, it can take years to go from suspicion to services. For us, it took about a month,” he says. “That was such a blessing.”
How NODA Works
The Naturalistic Observation Diagnosis Assessment is a smartphone-based system that connects parents to diagnostic experts. Parents download the app from iTunes and set up a secure account. The app prompts them to record short videos of their child in the home and the app uploads the videos to a web-based system. Clinicians at SARRC then view the videos, tag them with behaviors relevant to a diagnosis of autism and use these tags to complete a diagnostic checklist for autism.
For more information on NODA, contact SARRC’s Intake Team at 602.606.9806 or learn more here.