Feasibility of using touch screen technology for early cognitive assessment in children

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Abstract

Objective

To explore the feasibility of using a touch screen assessment tool to measure cognitive capacity in toddlers.

Design

112 typically developing children with a median age of 31 months (IQR: 26–34) interacted with a touch screen cognitive assessment tool. We examined the sensitivity of the tool to age-related changes in cognition by comparing the number of items completed, speed of task completion and accuracy in two age groups; 24–29 months versus 30–36 months.

Results

Children aged 30–36 months completed more tasks (median: 18, IQR: 18–18) than those aged 24–29 months (median: 17, IQR: 15–18). Older children also completed two of the three working memory tasks and an object permanence task faster than their younger peers. Children became faster at completing the working memory items with each exposure and registered similar completion times on the hidden object retrieval items, despite task demands being twofold on the second exposure. A novel item required children to integrate what they had learnt on preceding items. The older group was more likely to complete this item and to do so faster than the younger group.

Conclusions

Children as young as 24 months can complete items requiring cognitive engagement on a touch screen device, with no verbal instruction and minimal child–administrator interaction. This paves the way for using touch screen technology for language and administrator independent developmental assessment in toddlers.

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