A new machine learning model based on induction of rules for autism detection

Fadi Thabtah, David Peebles

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

160 Citations (Scopus)


Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder that describes certain challenges associated with communication (verbal and non-verbal), social skills, and repetitive behaviors. Typically, autism spectrum disorder is diagnosed in a clinical environment by licensed specialists using procedures which can be lengthy and cost-ineffective. Therefore, scholars in the medical, psychology, and applied behavioral science fields have in recent decades developed screening methods such as the Autism Spectrum Quotient and Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers for diagnosing autism and other pervasive developmental disorders. The accuracy and efficiency of these screening methods rely primarily on the experience and knowledge of the user, as well as the items designed in the screening method. One promising direction to improve the accuracy and efficiency of autism spectrum disorder detection is to build classification systems using intelligent technologies such as machine learning. Machine learning offers advanced techniques that construct automated classifiers that can be exploited by users and clinicians to significantly improve sensitivity, specificity, accuracy, and efficiency in diagnostic discovery. This article proposes a new machine learning method called Rules-Machine Learning that not only detects autistic traits of cases and controls but also offers users knowledge bases (rules) that can be utilized by domain experts in understanding the reasons behind the classification. Empirical results on three data sets related to children, adolescents, and adults show that Rules-Machine Learning offers classifiers with higher predictive accuracy, sensitivity, harmonic mean, and specificity than those of other machine learning approaches such as Boosting, Bagging, decision trees, and rule induction.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)264-286
Number of pages23
JournalHealth Informatics Journal
Issue number1
Early online date29 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2020


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