Bloom Buddy Unveils Africa’s First Autism Screening App

Emma Okonji

In a major technological breakthrough for Nigeria, Bloom Buddy, in partnership with Autism Speaks and the Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders of the College of Medicine, University of Lagos, has launched the Nigerian Autism Screening Questionnaire (NASQ) web App.

The web App, which is the first-ever, freely accessible online tool for parents and caregivers in Nigeria, heralds a new era in early autism detection and intervention.

The NASQ web App tool alerts parents and caregivers to their children’s autism symptoms and encourages them to speak with their healthcare providers and explore appropriate services and supports, potentially altering the life trajectory of countless children.

Announcing the breakthrough in a statement, the CEO of Bloom Buddy, Sola Fatoba, said Nigeria’s position as a frontrunner in the field of autism has  been reinforced.

According to Fatoba, the NASQ (designed and solely owned by Autism Speaks), provides a novel tool for detecting autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which affects more 75 million people globally and may have a higher prevalence in Africa, where countries like Nigeria have reported a rate of approximately one in 10 children with developmental disabilities.

“Following six years of development and testing, with proven success in communities, the NASQ aims to be an indispensable tool for early autism detection. It is also in its intermediate development stages as a screening instrument, with the second phase of its validation study ongoing.

“The accessibility of the NASQ web app presents a significant benefit, as its online availability and zero cost permit a wider reach for early screening for more children. “The tool marks an important step forward in enhancing autism detection in Nigeria, where the practice of incorporating neurological developmental screenings into regular health assessments for children under two is not yet established,” Fatoba said.

“The NASQ could potentially be a critical solution to address this gap in developmental healthcare provision.

The implications of NASQ are profound. It offers the possibility of earlier identification, support and intervention for children with autism at a stage when it can have the most impact.

“It is more than just an innovative tool; it is a beacon of hope for communities with limited access to autism assessment and diagnosis, and it could very well set the benchmark for similar initiatives globally in low-resourced communities, Fatoba further said.

The web app is now available to all Nigerians on the Bloom Buddy website for in-app use on phones, tablets and computers.

“Our alliance with Autism Speaks in bringing this transformative tool to Nigerians fills us with immense pride. Our mission is to equip families with dependable, readily available resources, to provide critical support amidst the intricacies of navigating autism care,” Fatoba added.

Chief Science Officer at Autism Speaks, Andy Shih, said: “The launch of the NASQ web app underscores Autism Speaks’ dedication to providing accessible and effective autism screening tools, particularly in underserved regions. Through our partnership with Bloom Buddy and researchers in Nigeria, we have developed an e-version of a scientifically validated, culturally sensitive tool to help address Nigeria’s needs.”

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