ASDetect wins BHERT Award

The La Trobe University team behind a revolutionary app designed to detect the early signs of autism has won a coveted Business Higher Education Round Table (BHERT) Award.

The Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre (OTARC) at La Trobe has been honoured with the BHERT Award for Outstanding Collaboration for National Benefit for 2019 for their work on the ASDetect app.

OTARC Senior Research Fellow Dr Barbaro, who led the development of the free smartphone app said ASDetect has had more than 38,000 downloads and 29,600 assessments undertaken since its launch in 2016.

“We’re thrilled to accept this award as it recognises the ground-breaking early autism detection work being conducted at La Trobe,” Dr Barbaro said.

“The app, backed by over 15 years of research at La Trobe, is designed to empower parents and caregivers to identify autism earlier and more accurately than ever before.”

Dr Barbaro said children in Australia are typically diagnosed with autism at four years of age.

“Lowering the age that a child is diagnosed provides more time to deliver early supports and services in the critical early period of brain development, and dramatically reduces parental and family stress,” Dr Barbaro said.

“ASDetect takes parents through a series of questions and videos to help identify whether children as young as 12-months-old are likely to have autism.”

Dr Barbaro said the app does not replace formal diagnosis but works to inform families whether they should seek professional help and get a proper assessment.

ASDetect builds on the success of the Social Attention and Communication Surveillance (SACS) tool which was first developed by OTARC in 2005 and is now known as the Monitoring of Social Attention, Interaction and Communication (MoSAIC) tool.

The app has been translated and disseminated across 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific and Europe.

Using the MoSAIC tool, with funding support from the Victorian Government, OTARC has trained all Victorian Maternal and Child Health nurses and students how to confidently identify the early signs of social communication delay in children during their routine 12, 18 and 24 month Key Age and Stages health checks.

Dr Barbaro also thanked the key industry partners who continue to collaborate with OTARC on ASDetect – Salesforce, Google.Org, the Cooperative Research Centre for Living with Autism, and the Municipal Association of Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services.

“The support of our partners has been crucial in expanding access to early autism detection to families both in Australia and overseas,” said Dr Barbaro.

“By detecting children early and providing supports for them and their families, we're giving our children the best opportunity to thrive, regardless of their neurological make-up.”

The 2019 BHERT Awards were presented at the Engagement Australia 2019 Conference on Thursday 29 August.

Three other La Trobe nominations progressed to the second round of the BHERT Awards. They are:

  • Reducing waiting time for ambulatory and outpatient care – Dr Katherine Harding (Occupational Therapy) with partner Eastern Health
  • Albury-Wodonga Year 11 Pathway to La Trobe program – Dr Guinever Threlkeld and Cherie Dyde (Albury-Wodonga campus) with partner high schools
  • Reducing C-Section births and improving health outcomes for mothers and babies – Professor Helen McLachlan and Professor Della Forster (Judith Lumley Centre) with the Royal Women’s Hospital

PHOTO: Images courtesy Cookoo Design Photography

Media contact: Dragana Mrkaja – 0447 508 171 –