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    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

    March 30, 2015 -- The video shows a toddler in an exam room. She’s been dressed in fuchsia shoes, a leopard print top, and a matching bow. Her brown hair is neatly combed. She walks well for a 15-month-old, wobbling only a little as she navigates the room’s pint-sized chairs and tables.

    Her mother sits in a corner of the room with her knees pressed together, her body hunched forward. Her hands clutch the edge of her chair.

    A psychologist comes in. She walks over to a shelf and pulls out a small purple bathtub. There’s a baby doll and other toys in the tub.

    “Let’s get her ready for her bath!” the therapist says, sitting on the floor to be closer to the girl. “Take off her robe,” she says, undressing the doll.

    The little girl doesn’t look up.

    “Hot!” the therapist says, as she runs her hand under the imaginary water. “Let’s wash the baby. Can you wash the baby?”

    The little girl doesn’t look up.

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    She walks over to the bathtub. She takes each toy, one by one, and flings them behind her with the same straight-armed motion. The rubber duck, the baby doll, the pretend soap and shampoo bottles. They clatter on the floor.

    The psychologist sings the rubber ducky song, “Rubber ducky, you’re the one! Who makes bath time lots of fun!”

    The little girl doesn’t look up.

    She flings the tiny towel, a hairbrush. They land behind her with thuds.

    At that moment anyone can see it. Something’s not right with the little girl.

    Spotting Autism in Babies

    Even though it’s unusual for psychologists to determine that a child has autism before they’re 18 months of age, the little girl in the video was diagnosed “that day,” says Erin Brooker Lozott, a speech-language pathologist at the Marcus Autism Center in Atlanta. 

    The medical team felt comfortable making the call, she says, based on the number of red flags the child was already showing. The researchers believe the motion the little girl made with her arm as she threw the toys was the beginning of a repetitive behavior -- a telltale sign of the condition.

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