“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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com
Divya Menon | EurekAlert!
Study suggests possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer's
02.12.2016 | Oregon Health & Science University
The first analysis of Ewing's sarcoma methyloma opens doors to new treatments
01.12.2016 | IDIBELL-Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy