Autism app for faster diagnosis
Important interventions could be made with the release of a mobile phone app for detecting autism.
Researchers say autism can be identified in children as young as 12 months old with the help of ASDetect.
ASDetect provides a series of tests and questions for parents to identify whether their child may have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
The questions focus on established warning signs of ASD in children, including avoiding eye contact and not responding to names.
The app determines the likelihood of a child having autism, and recommends whether professional help or a formal assessment is needed.
“I think it'll revolutionise the way we identify autism,” says autism expert and psychologist Dr Josephine Barbaro.
“Currently not many people have access to specialists in early detection and diagnosis of autism,” she told ABC reporters.
“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.”
About one in 50 Australian children have autism.
Currently, the average age of autism diagnosis in Australia is four years old, and less than than 3 per cent of children with autism are diagnosed by the time they are two years old.
It usually takes about four years from when a parent believes their child may have autism, to them actually receiving a formal diagnosis.
“So 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,” Dr Barbaro said.
“It really is about trying to get children to learn as many skills as they can prior to school entry.”
Autism Spectrum Australia (ASPECT) has welcomed the potentially groundbreaking new tool, but says parents should not rely on it 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 told reporters.
“Just because your child isn't doing something at 18 months, doesn't necessarily mean they're going to go on and have autism.”