Season 14 Innovators
Noraldin Al-Deri witnessed the suffering caused by inaccurate diagnoses of children’s mental capabilities. A friend of his family had a child with intellectual disability and Al-Deri saw the family suffer both financially and emotionally because of misdiagnosis. He thus dedicated himself to helping children with neurodevelopmental disorders. An inaccurate diagnosis of an intellectual disability, he believes, is a key challenge – since it limits the child’s potential for growth and adds burden and stress to the family.
Passionate about helping children with neurodevelopmental disorders and born to parents with an inclination towards science, Al-Deri finished high school in Amman at the age of 15 years old. In school, his teachers took the time to understand his high functioning intellectual capabilities and helped him achieve his potential. This experience shaped his life, motivating him to help parents/teachers understand the neurodevelopmental disorders and intellectual capabilities in children. He is now pursuing a doctorate in biology supported by several top universities in Canada with a focus on this subject area.
Al-Deri first watched Stars of Science at a very young age and immediately got hooked. He would watch the show every year and as he grew up, Al-Deri decided that he was going to participate. In addition to his love for embracing new challenges, he was motivated by the desire to raise awareness about intellectual disabilities in children along with the struggle of their parents.
About the Project
Currently, it is difficult to accurately diagnose intellectual disability in children at an early age, non-verbal infants, which means that children whose disability goes unrecognized may be deprived of specialized programs designed to help them. They may also experience ridicule and, in some cases, severe trauma from people around them who do not understand their disability.
Parents, however, may begin to sense worrying symptoms only after several months of birth. Any inaccurate diagnoses occurring at this stage can have drastic consequences on the lives of these children, that might propel them into unjustified processes and medications causing unnecessary stress, cost, and pain to the families and societies at large. It is here that Al-Deri’s Infant Intellectual Auto Classifier comes into play.
Al-Deri’s project is a diagnostic tool that can assess a child’s intellectual capabilities between their first four months to 3 years. An algorithm collects behavioral and physiological data from children, including heart rate, eye movement and facial reactions, as they watch an animated video playing on a screen and respond to the purposeful stimuli. Based on this information, the algorithm classifies the possible zone of child’s intellectual ability and assists in the proper diagnosis tasks of the physician/parents accordingly.
The Jordanian scientist curated an algorithm that is inclusive and doesn’t discriminate against children with Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, non-verbal or sensory issues. Other algorithms on the market usually misdiagnose children on account of these neurodevelopmental disabilities. The Infant Intellectual Auto Classifier can differentiate between neurodevelopmental and intellectual disabilities in children. The tool only needs 6.5 minutes to provide a diagnosis and does not require any interaction from the child. Most importantly, the tool is inclusive of all cultures and languages.
With the growing awareness about neurodevelopmental disorders in children, there comes a growing need for accurate, reliable diagnosis. Now, when kids are diagnosed at an early age, they are offered specialized streams of education that help them grow and develop (for example, special education schools, which help students adapt to the world around them, saving them and their families from trauma).
Al-Deri’s device can be a useful tool for pediatric clinics, child development centers, and educational institutions run by doctors or psychologists. It can facilitate research efforts involving children with intellectual disability, helping the medical community gain insight about the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in children. This research would, in turn, help the medical community and parents understand the struggles of these children and learn how to alleviate the difficulties they face on a daily basis.
Al-Deri’s Infant Intellectual Auto Classifier could help doctors and physicians take proactive action at an early stage of the child’s life. There are many infants who are misdiagnosed with intellectual disability resulting in unjustified treatment or whose disorders tend to go unidentified. This device has the potential to help these kids by saving them from trauma and ridicule while aiding their caregivers in accurately identifying their intellectual capability.