Is It Possible to Spot Autism in Babies?

Rresearchers have found autism traits in babies 12 months and younger.

Rresearchers have found autism traits in babies 12 months and younger.

by Joanna Frketich -

Dr. Peter Szatmari is one of the researchers of a study that found traits of autism in babies 12 months and younger.

Hamilton researchers have found autism traits in babies 12 months and younger, raising the possibility of one day preventing the neurological disorder.

It’s the earliest autism traits have been identified, as children are most often diagnosed at age three or later.

“Nobody has ever demonstrated that before,” said Dr. Peter Szatmari, one of the researchers and director of the renowned Offord Centre for Child Studies, which is affiliated with McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences.

“The key is to intervene as early as possible. If we can intervene in this window (of six to 18 months), it’s not inconceivable we’ll be able to prevent autism. That would be a remarkable game-changer.”

The study published this month in the Journal of the American Medical Association also shows that siblings who are never diagnosed with autism can still have traits of the disorder that need interventions.

“These kids will pop up in the system when they are eight to 10 years of age having difficulty in school, anxiety and difficulty making friends,” said Szatmari. “Now we have an opportunity to do something early.”

The study of 500 children from Hamilton, Toronto, Halifax and Edmonton is most significant for siblings of autistic children. As autism runs in families, it’s more likely traits such as communication difficulties, lower cognitive skills and internalizing problems are related to it.

For babies with no family history of the disorder, it could point to any number of issues.

“It has generated a lot of buzz and excitement,” said Szatmari. “A lot of groups around the world are looking at the findings and seeing if they can replicate it.”

In the study, 40 per cent of siblings had autistic traits at 12 months. Half went on to be diagnosed with autism at age three, and half did not.

“We can now begin testing specific interventions,” said Dr. Stelios Georgiades, lead author of the study and a researcher at the Offord Centre. “This is a Canadian study leading the way.”

An Ontario autism researcher not connected with the study says it raises questions about whether mothers are already taking steps to help prevent the disorder. Dr. Derrick MacFabe, director of the Kilee Patchell-Evans Autism Research Group at Western University in London, Ont., would like to know more about the siblings who show signs of autism as babies but aren’t diagnosed at age three.

Read more at Autism traits found in babies.

[Via –]

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