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New app helps parents identify autism in children

Following the stock market, watching the cricket and talking to friends all over the world: ‘there’s an app for that’, as the saying goes. And now there is an app to gain an insight into whether a young child might have an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Developed by the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University in Melbourne, ASDetect asks parents a series of questions about their beloved youngster before offering an opinion on the likelihood that he or she has an ASD.

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

La Trobe research indicates that around 1 in 50 children have an ASD, and that the majority of these kids are not diagnosed until 4 years old. Dr Barbaro and her colleagues say that a child can be diagnosed between 1 and 2 years of age, an advance assisted by this app.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by restricted and repetitive behaviour and reduced social skills, and impaired verbal and non-verbal communication. It occurs almost fives more often in boys than girls and symptoms are normally noticed by the child’s second birthday.

The ASDetect app uses short videos and still images to demonstrate behaviours. Parents are then asked to select if this type of response is typical of their child. Based on these responses the app gives an indication of ASD likelihood and advises the next steps for the parent to take. The app is available for both iPhone and Android devices. Here is a walk-through of how it works:

The process starts with a welcome screen and video, which also acts as a disclaimer against user the app instead of a professional assessment:


Parents then enter the name and birth date of their child before starting:


Parents are asked questions about their child’s reaction to certain situations and their behaviour. The only two responses permitted are ‘rarely’ and ‘mostly’.


Here is another example:


And another:


After answering all the questions, the app delivers its verdict:


And here is a version of the final screen after the entering of responses designed to trigger a pro-ASD verdict:


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