ASDetect: an award-winning smartphone app for early detection of autism

| December 2, 2016

ASDetect – The inside story was featured on Open Forum in March 2016. The article described the research that underpinned the app, the vision of the academic team behind it and the spirit of generosity that made it happen. The app has gone on to win multiple awards including being named as a Google Impact Challenge Australia 2016 finalist.

What is ASDetect?

ASDetect is a unique, free mobile app designed for parents, educators and health professionals to identify autism very early in life. It is a video-led self-assessment app that allows parents to monitor their child’s social attention and communication behaviours at a very young age (between 11 and 30 months). ASDetect has distinctive features that let parents observe, record, and submit answers at 3 different age levels.

How does ASDetect work?

ASDetect is a very simple tool to use. Parents or caregivers register themselves, register their child, and enter their child’s date of birth. The app will automatically guide parents to the age-appropriate assessment where they are presented with a series of questions based on the ‘red flags’ for early signs of autism. Each question has written instructions to facilitate the parent’s response and is supplemented with narrated video footage of children both with and without autism, who have attended OTARC’s Early Assessment Clinic at La Trobe University. Parents are then prompted to answer each question as to whether their child ‘mostly’ or ‘rarely,’ displays that particular behaviour.

Once parents have completed the assessment and submitted their response, they will receive an instant in-app result of either ‘high’ or ‘low’ likelihood, followed by an email with a comprehensive formal assessment result report which in turn they can print and share with health professionals. The research underlying ASDetect had yielded 81% accuracy in early detection of autism and other related developmental conditions.

ASDetect wins state and national awards and goes international

ASDetect won the Victorian state iAward in May and went on to win the National iAward in September in its category for Research and Development Project of the Year. In October, ASDetect went international when Dr Josephine Barbaro and Professor Cheryl Dissanayake were asked to be keynote speakers at Salesforce’s Dreamforce event in California which is the world’s largest IT convention, attended by more than 100,000 people. Last but not least, ASDetect was one of 10 finalists of the Google Impact Challenge Australia receiving $250,000 to translate ASDetect into Mandarin and Japanese, expanding its reach to an additional 81 million children globally.

ASDetect – Impact so far

Since its release in February 2016, ASDetect has been downloaded over 12,000 times across 26 countries, with 7,000 children registered, and 5,000 assessments conducted. Two surveys of users (n = 208) indicated that 60% of parents whose children returned a ‘high-likelihood’ result arranged a follow-up appointment with their doctor, with 24% subsequently receiving a diagnosis (52% autism, 45% developmental/language delay, 3% ADHD), highlighting its immediate impact on families. Importantly, 71% of caregivers reported they already had prior concerns, indicating that ASDetect enables parents to explore concerns about their child’s development, regardless of where they live.

ASDetect has also raised awareness about early social-communication milestones, educating thousands of people in the community. User surveys revealed that 97% of caregivers reported ASDetect’s videos were helpful in illustrating the behaviours, 90% knew more about social-communication milestones following its use, and 96% would recommend ASDetect to other parents.

What is next for ASDetect?

Projects are now underway to evaluate ASDetect, translate it into other languages, and develop a version for healthcare professionals (ASDetectPRO), further enabling the timely identification and diagnosis of children with autism.


Download ASDetect