The research behind ASDetect


World-class research in the early detection of autism

  • Over a decade of community-based research
  • Two large-scale studies with more than 30,000 children
  • 350 trained Maternal and Child Health nurses
  • Based on a developmental surveillance tool adopted globally in South Korea, Japan, Poland, Bangladesh and China

The evidence underpinning ASDetect is drawn from research undertaken by Dr Josephine Barbaro, PhD, who is program leader for the early detection and diagnosis of autism at the Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia.

During the Social Attention and Communication Study (SACS), Dr Barbaro trained 350 Maternal and Child Health nurses to monitor the social attention and communication behaviours of more than 30,000 children aged 12 to 24 months of age, across two large scale studies beginning in 2007.

A highly accurate tool

In these studies, 81% of children who were identified as having a high likelihood for autism by Maternal and Child Health nurses, did in fact have autism. Early identification of children with a high likelihood of autism means that parents and caregivers have the best chance of  helping their child to reach their full potential.

“All typically developing babies are pre-wired to be social, look at other people’s faces, learn from them and copy what they’re doing. Children with autism are not doing this – and we can now accurately identify this at a much younger age and take action,” Dr Barbaro said.

Through this comprehensive study, Dr Barbaro has developed an accurate set of ‘red flag’ markers of ASD, which form the basis of the assessments in ASDetect. These ‘red flags’ relate to the following behaviours in young children:

  • making consistent eye contact with others
  • smiling in response to being smiled at
  • showing their toys to others
  • play social games
  • drawing other people’s attention by pointing, and
  • responding when their name is called.

Listen to Dr Barbaro discuss early detection

Podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud

Watch Dr Barbaro giving an overview of her work in early detection

(Part of La Trobe Univerity’s Big Fat Ideas series.)

Transforming the early detection of autism Early detection and diagnosis leads to early intervention. With early intervention, we can help improve outcomes for children and help lead them to live independently as adults. Josie’s Big FAT Idea is to transform the way that we identify and diagnose autism – to do so early to maximise children’s’ potential.

Further reading

You can read abstracts of both academic papers by Dr Josephine Barbaro and Professor Cheryl Dissanayake discussing the SACS here:

2010 PAPER >

2013 PAPER >

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