Using Technology to Support Early Identification of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Vietnam
Early identification and intervention for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in low-middle income countries and in Vietnam in particularly is still a big challenge. Only some pediatric hospitals in big cities in Vietnam provide assessment and diagnosis services for children (VAN, 2012; Mang luoi tu ky Viet Nam, 2016). Young infants and children experience no routine health and development screening, and there is a lack of screening and other assessment tools translated into Vietnamese readily available for use (Ha et al., 2017; Cong et al., 2015). Meanwhile, information available on child development and ASD are not consistent or reliable, and can be confusing for parents leading to considerable misunderstandings and delayed reactions.
Telecommunication Vietnam has been rising rapidly and smartphone become very popular. The increasing use of technology provides the possibility of implementing screening for developmental delay and autism via online platforms. This paper presents our pilot project of developing a365.vn – a web-based platform to support early identification of ASD by both health professionals and parents/caregivers of young children.
- To describe the models and results from the online screening tools on A365 by two groups of users: healthcare professionals during regular child check-ups and parents/caregivers.
- To discuss the advantages and challenges for users, lessons learned and implications for applying technology to support autism screening and diagnosis.
Quantitative data are collected from the back-end system, including registered users’ demographics and behaviors and tests results, as well as from Google Analytics which provides further information about all visitors to the website. We also used qualitative data from group discussion and in-per-son and phone interviews with users.
As of June 2017, there were 5536 developmental and autism screening tests completed on the website by users from 59/63 provinces in Vietnam. Screening conducted by health professionals during health check-ups or at home by parents both have advantages and limitations. The prevalence of children at-risk of developmental delay and autism identified by parents/caregivers was higher than by health professionals. This might imply that the majority of parent users of A365 already had some concerns about their child’s development, and as a result become interested in using the tools provided by a365.vn. In contrast, integration of screening into regular health check-ups allows screening at wider scale. Our pilot project also shows that training in autism and using screening tools empowers and increases the health professionals’ confidence level.
Conclusions: For both models, significant efforts for communications is required, both by traditional, mass media means such as posters, radios, etc,… to more technology-based, viral means such as social media and online forums. Collaboration with stakeholders, leaders and influencers at various levels, such as community leaders/authority, facebook influencers, etc. are also needed for the screening service to reach more parents. Last but not least, both models points to the need for follow-up services to confirm the diagnosis of at-risk children as well as further support for early intervention.