La Trobe University has launched a free smartphone app for detecting autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in infants. Designed in conjunction with ASD specialist Dr Josephine Barbaro, the ASDetect app is capable of detecting austism in infants as young as 12 months, which could lead to life-changing early intervention.
Currently, most Australian children with ASD are not diagnosed until the age of four. By then, it is often too late for early intervention techniques to be fully effective. ASDetect aims to assist parents and caregivers in early detection to give their kids the best chance of successful outcomes.
This is achieved with a series of tests and questions based on techniques used by early childcare professionals. The app also includes video footage of clinical assessments which demonstrate the key behaviours and "red flags" to watch out for.
These behaviors include failure to engage in communicative gestures such as waving and nodding, refusal to imitate the actions of others when invited, avoiding eye contact and not smiling without being tickled.
The app includes separate assessments for children aged 12 months, 18 months and 24 months. Once parents have completed the tasks within the app, the information is automatically sent to La Trobe University's Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre's database for analysis. Parents are then advised through the app whether further action is needed. [Note: The app does not purport to be a relacement
"ASDetect is an empowering tool for parents who may feel their children are developing differently than expected and are looking for answers," chief researcher Dr Barbaro explained. "Currently not many people have access to specialists in early detection and diagnosis of autism.
"ASDetect will provide parents with an indication as to whether they should seek a professional opinion from a doctor at a time when intervention will have the biggest impact"
ASDetect was brought to the market in partnership with Salesforce, which developed the app on a pro bono basis as part of its 1-1-1 integrated philanthropy model, where the company donates 1% of its employee’s time, products and equity to support the not-for-profit sector.