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    Innovations in Medicine
    A WebMD special report that looks at breakthroughs and gaps in autism treatment – from infants to adults.
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    Undoing Autism One Toy at a Time

    Spotting Autism in Babies continued...

    She also had a sibling with autism, which dramatically raised her risk of having the condition.

    And without knowing it, she became part of a growing movement in medicine, a push to find and treat children at risk for autism at younger and younger ages -- even in the womb -- in the hope that their social and emotional development can be boosted to normal or near-normal levels.

    She was immediately enrolled in a nationwide study at the Marcus Center that focuses early behavior-therapy treatment efforts on the baby brothers and sisters of children who’ve already been diagnosed.

    A baby boy has a 1 in 4 chance of getting the disorder if an older sibling also has it. For girls, the risk is about 1 in 9.

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    That's far higher than the risks seen in the general population, where 1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls has autism at age 8, according to the latest figures from the CDC.

    Researchers who are leading the study hope to recruit a total of 330 infants into the study. Each child will be screened using the current “gold standard” for spotting autism, a structured interview called the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule, or ADOS.

    The Marcus Center, along with the University of California and Boston University, is one of three federally designated “Autism Centers of Excellence.” All three are working on several ways to detect and treat the disorder at earlier ages.

    The Marcus Center is also working on a new test for autism that tracks a baby’s eyes as they watch videos of people talking. They used the new technology to show that babies who go on to get autism begin to make less eye contact with human faces as early as 2 months of age.

    If those results can be repeated in a larger clinical trial set to begin in July, Ami Klin, PhD, who directs the center, says they’ll seek FDA approval for the technology, which could become the first objective test for autism.

    The trial will take place at seven to nine sites around the country. Klin’s vision is to put the scanner in pediatrician’s offices, where doctors would test children at well-baby checkups that fall between the ages of 18 and 24 months.

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