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Autism Spectrum Disorders Health Center

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Autism: New Clue to Earlier Detection

Researchers Find Autism Attention Difference That May Start Very Early, Which May Lead to Earlier Detection and New Therapies

New Autism Study continued...

Once again, the autistic children showed a preference for audio-visual synchronicity in the "pat-a-cake" videos, while the other children were more interested in the figure's movements regardless of audio-visual synchronicity.

That pattern could be a clue about brain development and early signs of autism.

Klin explains that within a few days after birth, typically developing children prefer watching biological motion -- the movement of living beings, such as their parents -- and that preference is an important survival skill and a building block for relationships.

But Klin's group found that autistic children were more interested in "nonsocial contingencies," which are synchronicities that don't have any social meaning -- like two balls colliding and making a sound, or a stone falling when someone drops it.

New Autism Study

Klin, Jones, and colleagues have a grant to study how early in life those attention differences start and whether those patterns can be altered.

Meanwhile, Klin has a message for families of autistic children.

"I have 20 years serving children with autism and their families, and their well-being is all that matters," Klin tells WebMD.

"There is nothing in our research that in any way conveys a sense that children [with autism] are any less human, any less deserving of our love and respect, or any less of anything at all. It is that the way they seem to learn about this world is rather different than the strategies used by their peers. By better understanding how they do this, the better we will be able to reach them, and like in any personal relationship, the better they will be able to reach us. ... Their different perspective might give us solutions that others, with the typical mind and brain, might never see."

Klin talks more about reaching children with autism on WebMD's News blog.

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