Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed ActEarly, a mobile Android app, which gives parents and caregivers a comprehensive and convenient way to track developmental milestones for children, and are seeking volunteer families for a usability study of the new step-by-step tool.
“About 1 in 7 U.S. children will be affected with a developmental disability including Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and research shows that getting intervention for these children at the earliest age promotes better long-term outcomes,” said Rosa Arriaga, a senior research scientist and developmental psychologist in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech who is leading the research.
Arriaga will be working with Laurel Warrell, a Master’s of Science Candidate in Human-Computer Interaction, in efforts to deploy the app, conduct usability studies, and propose design improvements.
The ActEarly app is designed to support kids – newborns to age five – by providing information on social, language, cognitive, and physical milestones children should achieve at each age. “Parents may be unaware that a child is failing to meet important developmental milestones and this might put the child at risk,” said Arriaga.
The app, which leverages expertise from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is part of a broader campaign, “Learn the Signs, Act Early.” This initiative seeks to identify developmental disabilities in young children and provide families with needed services.
“Our goal in developing an interactive mobile-based app is to increase awareness of the appropriate milestones children should be reaching and empower caregivers to share their questions, doubts, and concerns with their pediatricians,” said Arriaga.
In creating the app, the Georgia Tech team has taken a largely paper-based set of material and designed a user-friendly way to easily understand and utilize CDC services and information regarding developmental delays in children.
For parents and caregivers interested in testing the app and participating in a usability study, there are two ways to help. Volunteers can signup for two 30-minute sessions to demo the app and provide feedback. Or, they can simply download the app and start using it. No individual data will be reported. Only aggregated results that are anonymous will be used for the research.
“We want parents to feel comfortable in choosing how much information, if any, they share,” Arriaga said. “This is a critical component to making this app useful as a health care tool.”
Those downloading the app can either create a personalized profile(s) to track one or more child’s developmental milestones, or they can choose to use the app to view quick lists of developmental milestones without providing personal data. Regardless, parents and caregivers are guided to tailored information based on the selected age range and answers to questions about developmental milestones. Users can reference a list of skills children should achieve at each age and keep track of milestones that have been attained. These include the number of words a child can speak, interactions with their environment, command of motor skills, and more.
Notes and email functions within the app allow parents to share gathered information with pediatricians and other medical professionals. These functions also provide parents a way to more closely monitor their child’s progress.
“We want to give parents a technology resource that can meet all their needs in saving important observations about their child’s behavior or questions for their pediatrician while being able to easily access the information at any time,” Arriaga said.
The ActEarly app will provide researchers an opportunity to understand how parents use a developmental milestone tracker and, in the long-term, have user data on development milestones that can help other families make better decisions and improve quality of care for young children.
For more information or to contact the team on using the ActEarly app, visit http://ipat.gatech.edu/study-recruitment.