Early Signs of Autism Identified in Infants
Findings Could Lead to More Effective Treatment
WebMD News Archive
High-Risk Kids Followed From Birth continued...
At 1 year, these same children also tended to have difficulty with language
and communication, and they used fewer gestures.
Zwaigenbaum noted that almost all of the children in the study who were
diagnosed with autism by age 24 months had seven or more of these markers by
the time they were a year old.
The findings are reported in the latest issue of the International
Journal of Developmental Neuroscience.
While the checklist may be useful for recognizing signs of autism in very
high-risk children like the ones in the study, its relevance as an
observational tool for other children is not yet known.
"Many of these behaviors are pretty common in early development, so they
are not necessarily a cause for concern," Zwaigenbaum tells WebMD. "The
next step is to take this experience working with high-risk infants out to the
general community to see if these observations have meaning."
In the meantime, the findings may immediately lead to an earlier suspicion
of autism and possibly earlier intervention in children at high risk.
"The message is that we need to start working with these kids as early
as possible instead of telling families that they should wait and see what
happens," Zwaigenbaum says.
Autism expert Andy Shih, PhD, tells WebMD that it is increasingly clear that
early intervention can make a big difference in the outcome of children with
autism. Shih is chief science officer for the National Alliance for Autism
"The evidence suggests that early behavioral interventions can actually
translate into better prognosis for these children," he says. "I
foresee this research having a tremendous impact on the diagnosis and care of
children with autism. The ability to provide even earlier interventions would
have a tremendous impact on the quality of life of many children out there and