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Autism's earliest symptoms not evident in children under 6 months
Date:2/15/2010

between 1 in 100 and 1 in 110 children in the United States.

Children with a sibling already diagnosed with autism are known to be among those at greatest risk of developing the disorder. The current study included 25 high-risk children who met criteria for autism at 3 years of age, matched with 25 low risk peers who were developing normally. It was conducted at the MIND Institute and the University of California, Los Angeles. The sole inclusion criterion for the high-risk group was having a sibling with autism; low-risk participants had to have been born after 36 weeks gestation and have no autistic family members.

The children's development was evaluated at 6, 12, 18, 24 and 36 months of age using a series of widely implemented diagnostic tools, including the Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule (ADOS) and the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised (ADI-R). Examiners were not told which babies were at high- or low-risk when evaluating the participants' development.

The researchers found that there were few discernable differences between the two groups at the outset but that after six months, 86 percent of the infants who developed autism showed declines in social communication that were outside the range for typical development. "After six months," the study found, "the autism spectrum disorder group showed a rapid decline in eye contact, social smiling, and examiner-rated social responsiveness." Group differences were significant by 12 months in eye contact and social smiling and all other measures by 18 months, the study found.

The study is notable because of the accuracy and precision of its prospective methodology, assiduously recording exact numbers of social and communicative behaviors during lab visits. Previously, researchers have constructed evidence of autism's earliest manifestations by interviewing parents about when they believed their children's symptoms first arose or by reviewing home movies for clues to when chi
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Contact: Phyllis Brown
phyllis.brown@ucdmc.ucdavis.edu
916-734-9023
University of California - Davis - Health System
Source:Eurekalert

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