Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Earlier Autism Diagnosis Could Mean Earlier Interventions

Autism is normally diagnosed between the ages of 2 and 3. But new research is finding symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in babies as young as 12 months. If children could be diagnosed earlier, it might be possible to help them earlier—and maybe even stop them from developing autism, according to the author of a new paper published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“In the field, there’s this new excitement,” says Brooke Ingersoll of Michigan State University. “We’re starting to get a picture of what autism looks like in the first years of life.” Because autism normally isn’t diagnosed until a child starts to show delays in talking and other milestones that typically occur after age 2, it’s been difficult to look at what children are like in the first years of life. Until recently, psychological scientists have only been able to learn about the children’s behavior as an infant and toddler by asking their parents, and sometimes looking at home movies.

But now results are coming in from studies that followed large numbers of children from 6 months to age 3, when a formal diagnosis could be determined. Some children later developed autism and others didn’t. “The group of children that eventually develop autism spectrum disorders looks different from typically-developing kids,” Ingersoll says. At 12 months, children who will later develop autism are less likely to show “joint attention behaviors”—paying attention to both a toy and another person, for example. They are also less likely to imitate. At this point, it is difficult to use this information to diagnose individual children this young; there’s such a large spectrum of normal behavior that the differences often only emerge when scientists compare a lot of children. But experts are now able to diagnose autism spectrum disorders at 18 to 24 months—much earlier than autism used to be diagnosed.

If young children have problems with social behaviors, it may then explain some of the later problems in autism—if they don’t imitate, for example, that could help explain why they have difficulty with language later, Ingersoll says. “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,” she says.

Because social learning is so important, some psychological scientists are trying to develop ways to work with toddlers who show early signs of autism. For example, several interventions have been developed to teach joint attention and imitation in very young children with ASD. In one such intervention, reciprocal imitation training, a therapist might play with the child by imitating what he is doing, then encourage him to imitate her. “We try to teach them, imitating other people is this great social thing,” Ingersoll says. These techniques are also taught to parents to practice at home to expand opportunities for learning.

Early results have been good, although the studies on several of these interventions won’t be finished for a few years, Ingersoll says. “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.”

For more information about this study, please contact: Brooke Ingersoll at

Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, publishes concise reviews on the latest advances in theory and research spanning all of scientific psychology and its applications. For a copy of "Recent Advances in Early Identification and Treatment of Autism" and access to other Current Directions in Psychological Science research findings, please contact Divya Menon at 202-293-9300 or

Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>