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Accelerated head growth can predict autism before behavioral symptoms start
Date:1/30/2008

Children with autism have normal-size heads at birth but develop accelerated head growth between six and nine months of age, a period that precedes the onset of many behaviors that enable physicians to diagnose the developmental disorder, according to new research from the University of Washingtons Autism Center.

The study also indicates that this aberrant growth is present in children who have the early onset form of autism as well as those later diagnosed with the regression type of the disorder, according to Sara Webb, who led the research.

We know there are a number of risk factors for autism, and if we can pinpoint them we have better ways of identifying children at risk so we can get them into prevention or monitoring, said Webb, a UW research assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

This abnormal or accelerated rate of head circumference growth is a biological marker for autism. It occurs before the onset of behavioral symptoms at 12 months of age such as a childs failure to respond to their name, a preoccupation with certain objects, not pointing to things, a lack of interest in other people and the absence of babbling.

By itself, head growth is not an indicator of autism, she said, because kids are going to be getting bigger and development is so variable. However, if you notice it and some of these other symptoms, it is a red flag to seek evaluation.

She said is it important understand that the data used in this study were based on three measurements made during the first three years of life, not from single point in time. To do this, the researchers obtained the medical records of 28 boys who had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder between the ages of 3 and 4 at the UW Autism Center and eight boys with developmental delay. All of the boys were participating in a larger longitudinal study.

Infant head measurements are typically done on a regular basis by pediatricians through the first 18 mon
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Contact: Joel Schwarz
joels@u.washington.edu
206-543-2580
University of Washington
Source:Eurekalert

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