Home Videos Show Autism Starts Later in Some
Birthday Party Videos Show Symptoms of Autism Emerge at Different Times
WebMD News Archive
Aug. 1, 2005 -- Home videos of children's birthday parties may validate what
many parents of autistic children have suspected in retrospect: Children who
seemed normal in their first year of life may regress and develop symptoms of
autism by their second birthday.
A new study analyzed home videos of first- and second-year birthday parties
and showed that some autistic children began displaying symptoms of the
disorder by their first birthday, such as less frequent use of words or
Meanwhile, other autistic children who behaved normally at age 1 appeared to
regress and showed typical symptoms of autism by age 2.
Researchers say it's the first objective evidence of autistic regression, a
form of autism that accounts for about 25% of all autism cases in the U.S.
"Once again, this study provides an important lesson that parents are
good reporters on what is happening with their children," says researcher
Geraldine Dawson, PhD, director of the University of Washington's Autism
Center, in a news release. "And it certainly suggests that in early
screening for autism that we need to screen at 18, 24, and 36 months to find
children who develop normally at first, but then experience a
The study did not look at the cause of the autistic regression, nor any
possible links to childhood vaccines. The timing of childhood vaccinations and
the emergence of autism symptoms in early childhood has prompted some to
suggest that the two may be related, but scientific research has largely
rejected this theory.
Home Videos Document Autistic Regression
In the study, researchers analyzed first and second birthday party home
videos provided by the parents of 36 young children with autism and 20 normally
developing children. Of the autistic children, 15 were diagnosed with autism
after the parents reported a worsening of social and/or communication skills
during the second year of life. The parents of 21 of the children with autism
reported that they had impairments before age 1, known as early-onset
Researchers noted the frequency and duration of several behaviors seen in
the videotapes, such as language, looking at other people, repetitive behavior,
emotion, and playing with toys. They were unaware of the diagnosis that the
They also interviewed the caregiver about the child's early development.
Their results appear in the August issue of the Archives of General
By the children's second birthday, both groups of autistic children
vocalized and used words less frequently, pointed less often, looked at people
less often, and didn't respond when their name was called more often than the
normally developing children.
Children whose parents reported autistic regression used more complex babble
and words at their first birthday than normal children, while children with
early-onset autism used the fewest words and least amount of babble.
In addition, children with the early-onset form of autism pointed less at
their first birthday and showed more communication impediments than the other
two groups at this age.
Researchers say the results of this study show that at least some children
don't develop the typical symptoms of autism by the end of their first year of
life, and these symptoms may emerge in the following year.
They say that by ages 3 and 4, there were no differences in the severity of
autism between the two groups of autistic children in this study. But more
research is needed on whether autistic regression is different than other forms
of the autism.