Breakthroughs in Diagnosing, Preventing Autism

Posted on January 01, 2012
Breakthroughs in Diagnosing, Preventing Autism

Temple Grandin Speaks on autism at TED2010 | Photo by Flickr User jurvetson

New research says it’s possible to help diagnose autism in babies as young as a year old and an early diagnosis could allow for earlier intervention or potentially stop a child from developing autism.

Autism typically isn’t diagnosed until a child starts to show delays in talking and other milestones that occur after age 2. A study published in this month’s Current Directions in Psychological Science says the medical community has new clues about what to look for in even younger children. For example, children who will later develop autism are less likely to show “joint attention behaviors”—paying attention to both a toy and another person. They are also less likely to imitate, said Brooke Ingersoll of Michigan State University, who wrote the journal article. If they don’t imitate, that could explain why they have difficulty with language later, Ingersoll said. “If there’s some early disruption in these mechanisms that are involved in social learning, the children have many fewer opportunities to learn about their environment.”

Early results have been good, although the studies on several of these interventions won’t be finished for a few years. “I think there’s a lot of hope that if we can figure out the right behaviors early enough, and intervene early enough, we may be able to prevent the development of autism.”

Author: Nirvi Shah, Edweek

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