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A new smartphone app that helps detect signs of Autism, will give more children access to life-altering early intervention.

The app will help parents detect signs of autism in babies as young as 12 months old and Autism expert and psychologist Dr Josephine Barbaro said early diagnosis gave children the best chance of successful outcomes.

“I think it’ll revolutionise the way we identify autism, because currently not many people have access to specialists in early detection and diagnosis of autism,” she said.  “So what we’re doing is taking cutting-edge research and putting it in this app so anyone can access it from the comfort of their own home.”

The ASDetect App, takes parents through a series of questions to help identify whether their children may have a Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Parents are asked a series of questions centered on the potential warning signs of ASD, such as children repeatedly avoiding eye contact or not responding to their name when called.

They are then informed via a message on the app about the likelihood of their child having autism and referred to seek professional help if required.

With about one in 50 children having Autism, Professor Barbaro said studies had shown it typically takes four years from when a parent believes their child may have autism, to when they received a formal diagnosis.

Dr Barbaro told the ABC during a recent interview that,  “We really want to stress this app isn’t a diagnosis for autism. It’s really about the likelihood of having autism,” she said.  “We really need to start acting fast and empowering parents and giving them the tools so that when they go to the doctor, the doctor is actually listening to them and taking their child to get an assessment,” she said.  “It really is about trying to get children to learn as many skills as they can prior to school entry.”

Service provider Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT) has welcomed the app, but stressed that it should not be used as a stand-alone tool.

“I think it’s important for parents to realise it’s not in replacement of a formal diagnosis, it’s just there as an indicator of potential symptoms that may be there,” behaviour support specialist Vicki Cooper said.  “Just because your child isn’t doing something at 18 months, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re going to go on and have autism.”

  • It is a very good thing. I believe some parents are a bit scared, or ashamed to ask for help. Having an app you can do it at home or anywhere else, and you won’t have to be afraid to check.

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  • wow yeah there sure is an app for everything! this could be useful!

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  • I am grateful that there is easy access to information like this available to everyone. Whilst an app like this is not a diagnosis, I think it will help ask the right questions at the doctors in order to get the full diagnosis. There will be those that worry unnecessarily, but there will be others that will seek help earlier, thus accessing assistance earlier.

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  • Mmm, being the mum of an autistic child I say no to the app. don’t worry yourself unnecessarily. Seek a doctor and specialist opinion and treatment plan.

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  • This doesn’t help families access the professionals who can diagnosis ASD – the long waiting lists and expense is still a problem.

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  • Early detection and management is so important; this will no doubt be a very useful tool.

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  • A lot of people are going o be grateful for this.

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  • Anything that helps detect Autism will help many. Early detection and consequent and management helps so much.

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  • I think this is a really good idea as we know that early intervention is best and children are being diagnosed far too late and missing out on a lot of opportunities. As they’ve said, it is not a diagnosis, and as long as it is treated as a list of possible indicators, then it can give parents another tool with which to talk to their Doctor or Paediatrician about and the child can be tested or monitored earlier than what may have been the case without it. Even if children aren’t then diagnosed as on the spectrum they may still benefit from behavioural therapies or social skills interventions.

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