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Autism risk shown in babies as young as six months

27th January 2012

Researchers have suggested it may be possible to detect autism at a much earlier age than previously thought.

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Behavioural symptoms of autism typically develop between a child’s first and second birthdays but findings published in the journal Current Biology identified differences in the brainwaves of infants from as early as six months.

Autism charities have welcomed the findings and said that identifying the disorder at an earlier stage could help with treatment.

Researcher Professor Mark Johnson from Birkbeck College, University of London, said: “The prevailing view is that if we are able to intervene before the onset of full symptoms, such as a training programme, at least in some cases we can maybe alleviate full symptoms.”

Scientists looked for the earliest signs of autism in 104 children aged between six and 10 months. Half were known to be at risk of the disorder because they had on older sibling who had been diagnosed with autism and the rest were low risk.

Professor Tony Charman from the Centre for Research in Autism and Education at the Institute of Education said future studies will be required to determine whether measurements of brain function - such as those used in this study - might eventually play a role in helping to identify children at an even earlier age.

Dr Georgina Gomez-de-la-Cuesta from the National Autistic Society welcomed the research and added: “Early intervention is very effective in supporting those with autism, so recognition in infancy can only be beneficial in helping individuals with autism reach their full potential.”

 

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