Autism expert visits Mildura

Leading researcher, Dr Josie Barbaro from La Trobe’s Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC), was in Mildura Thursday 4 August, presenting a lecture on her early detection of Autism research to over 130 of Mildura’s health professionals, teachers and alumni.

The lecture formed part of the La Trobe Alumni Committee’s annual general meeting.

“With more than 1000 graduates from La Trobe University Mildura, and many that are working in the community, it is important to keep those alumni engaged with the University and provide professional development opportunities where we can” Dr Deb Neal, Head of Campus Mildura said.

La Trobe’s OTARC is Australia’s first centre dedicated to researching Autism Spectrum Disorders. Dr Barbaro is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at OTARC and a leader in early detection autism research. Dr Barbaro visited Mildura to discuss how her ground-breaking work to identify behavioural ‘ref-flags’ in young children is now used around the world to diagnose babies as young as 18 months.

Speaking to the audience last night Dr Barbaro said that “historically it was thought that you cannot diagnose autism under 3 years of age, but that’s not true, you can diagnose autism as early as 18-24 months of age”. Dr Barbaro spoke about the importance of early detection stating that “the earlier you can diagnose before the syndrome is fully manifest then the earlier you can start to work with the child and stop the syndrome impacting on the child’s learning”.
The audience got to hear first-hand about ASDetect, a smartphone app Dr Barbaro designed.

“ASDetect is an empowering tool for parents who may feel their children are developing differently than expected and are looking for answers’ said Dr Barbaro. The app is not a replacement for professional assessment, however ASDetect will provide parents with an indication as to whether they should seek a professional opinion from a doctor.
Dr Neal said “we are very lucky to have Dr Josie Barbaro in Mildura tonight to talk to our alumni and industry professionals and highlight some of the great research La Trobe is involved in”.

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