We aim to bring attention to the underdiagnosis of autism in women with a comprehensive website. Our platform includes a specialized autism diagnosis test designed specifically for women, as well as a kid-friendly game to support young girls with autism.**
Autism has historically been underdiagnosed in women and girls because the diagnostic criteria for autism have been based on research and clinical experience primarily with male subjects.
The symptoms of autism in women and girls can often present differently than in males. Females with autism may exhibit more subtle or less obvious social and communication difficulties, and may also develop coping mechanisms that mask some of their symptoms. As a result, they may not fit the stereotypical image of autism that is often portrayed in the media and popular culture.
There is also a growing awareness among healthcare professionals that autism is not just a male condition, and efforts are being made to improve the diagnosis and treatment of autism in females. However, more research is needed to fully understand the unique presentation of autism in women and girls and to develop better screening tools and diagnostic criteria that take these differences into account.
What "Spek" does (Quiz, Game, & Website)
Quiz: Women can take our test to determine if they should seek professional testing for autism. We included specific questions that take into account the unique presentation of autism in women, which is not found anywhere else on the web.
Game: The game “Spek” makes the process of testing more engaging for girls. With a simulation game where they can answer a series of behavioral questions, the activity of taking a test is more engaging. Specifically, since children often need in-person testing by professionals, the game provides a free and online alternative to suggest if further evaluation is necessary before having to go to a doctor.
Website: Our ultimate goal is to increase awareness of this often-overlooked issue and provide accessible, applicable, and engaging resources to help women and girls receive the support they need. We believe that Spek is the best tool out there, and we're committed to making a positive difference in the lives of those affected by autism. The main page is to educate and be a donation section so that we can gain money to fund clinical trials to improve diagnosis criteria for women and possibly provide in-school testing for all elementary students to provide early support.
What's next for Spek
Our first priority is to conduct more in-depth research on autism symptoms in women and girls. By leveraging the latest findings in this area, we can ensure that our tests and questions are as accurate as possible, helping us to provide the best possible diagnosis to our users. We also recognize that autism symptoms can vary widely based on factors like race, gender, and age, so we plan to expand our testing to make it more tailored to the unique needs of each individual.
At the heart of our mission is a commitment to education and support for those affected by autism. That's why we have a dedicated donation section on our main page, where we welcome contributions to fund clinical trials that will improve the diagnosis criteria for women. Additionally, we hope to eventually provide in-school testing for elementary students, so that early support can be provided to those who need it. With these plans in place, we are confident that Spek will continue to make a positive impact in the lives of those affected by autism.
Additionally, Autism symptoms are also different for different people, for example, an Asian woman will have different symptoms than an African American man, so we would like to expand our testing to make tests as accurate for people based on their race, gender, and age. Lastly, we plan to add a maps API to our website so that when people take the test, if we recommend they get professionally tested for Autism we can show them the nearest place to get tested.
How we built it
Challenges we ran into
One of the main challenges we had was implementing the Videogame part since we have limited experience with Unity. Specifically, creating the characters as movable gifs was an issue. We figured out the basic functions of the video game, but it was a challenge to figure out how to combine them together into one cohesive game. It was also challenging working with git and committing changes because we had to figure out how to use it as a team. For the front end, we had to spend a lot of time trying to make a design that was inclusive to many types of people and research to ensure we were accurately depicting a population and not stereotyping or using male-dominated resources. Finally, running firebase was a new challenge we were not experienced with. Troubleshooting this was a great learning opportunity.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
One accomplishment we are proud of is making out characters into Sprites in Unity, which allowed us to work with game objects. We are also proud of figuring out how to make a button in Unity and use C# to switch scenes by clicking the button. We are also proud of figuring out movement in Unity. For the front end, we were extremely proud of utilizing all our lessons in class along with going above and beyond. We created an interactive website with content that we have never implemented before and we're also about to learn how to use Git which is not taught in classes.
What we learned
We learned how to make games in Unity and use Git properly as a team to make our changes easily accessible to everyone. We also learned how to team management and since it was our first time connecting the front end and back end, we learned how to delegate work based on interest and experience.
Submission Criteria: SOCIAL IMPACT
For young girls who have autism but not a diagnosis grow up not understanding why they are sometimes confused in social situations. They might not be able to make friends as easily as others and can sometimes be targeted by bullies. This can lead to lifelong feelings of failure and thinking they have character defects – or being told they do.
" If we had known I was autistic earlier, it may have been less painful. Stimming and rituals autistic coexist with me having OCD and anxiety and depression.[The diagnosis] made my therapist's therapeutic approach more holistic. The larger impact of diagnosing autism in femmes earlier is so that they can receive better-tailored therapy for other coexisting conditions they may have." -An woman who was not diagnosed until adulthood
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