Smartphone app for early autism detection

La Trobe University researchers have partnered with cloud CRM platform developer Salesforce to create a free smartphone app that guides parents through the identification of potential red flag signs of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

While not intended as a replacement for a professional assessment, the app uses questions drawn from research by behavioural scientist Josephine Barbaro of La Trobe's Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC).

Dr Barbaro has developed a technique that identifies red flags in children as young as 12 months such as failure to make consistent eye contact, share smiles, point to indicate interest or other expected behaviours.

Called ASDetect, the app combines Dr Barbaro’s assessment questions with video footage from actual clinical assessments that demonstrate the context and expected key behaviours of children at each age.

Parents view two videos: one showing a child with ASD, the other showing a typically developing child. Parents then answer questions regarding their own child. The information entered by the parents is automatically sent to OTARC’s database, which also runs on the Salesforce platform, where analysis of individual results is completed.

Parents are then sent information via a notification through the app, with advice as to whether they should seek professional help. As ASD can emerge over time, ASDetect includes assessments for children aged 12 months, 18 months and 24 months.

“ASDetect is an empowering tool for parents who may feel their children are developing differently than expected and are looking for answers,” Dr Barbaro said. “The new ASDetect app is an ideal way to share proven techniques with thousands of parents.

“This is not a replacement for professional assessment [but] 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 [effect].”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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