A free smartphone app could help parents detect autism in children as young as 12 months old.

La Trobe University's Olga Tennison Autism Research Centre launched a free smartphone app, in Melbourne on Sunday, called ASDetect that they say will help parents and caregivers to identify autism earlier.

The app uses questions drawn from research by Dr Josephine Barbaro and gives parents access to video footage from actual clinical assessments and clearly demonstrates the context and expected key behaviours of children at each age.