Strides are being made in autism diagnosis as scientists in Israel report they are able to diagnose autism spectrum disorder (ASD) within the first year of a child’s life.
The news comes from researchers at Bar-Ilan University, with two studies carried out by Bar-Ilan’s Mifne Center for Early Intervention in the Treatment of Autism and Dr. Hanna A. Alonim from the Weisfeld School of Social Work Continuing Education Unit.
The first study used video recordings of 110 infants with autism and was carried out over 10 years. Videos of them from their first year of life (filmed before they later received their ASD diagnoses between the ages of two and three) recorded by their parents were examined and analyzed by the researchers. The parents did not suspect autism when filming their children.
These videos were used as a control group and the parents were also posed questions about when they spotted their children’s autism symptoms. A number of autistic traits were detected, including an aversion to touch, delayed motor development, excessive activity or passivity, limited reactions, refusing to eat, an accelerated head circumference growth, and lack of eye contact. The study also examined the correlation of different symptoms.
Autism symptoms in babies between four and six months old
The research revealed 89% of the autism symptoms could be seen when the infants were between four and six months old, but it was hard for parents to notice these signs at the time of filming.
The importance of early intervention was highlighted in the second study, which compared the use of the Mifne Approach on 45 toddlers between one and two years of age and 39 toddlers between two and three years of age.
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The Mifne Approach was created by the Mifne Center and is centered around family therapy and attachment theory, which means the whole family receives support. The method supports physical, motor, sensory, and emotional development, in addition to cognitive development.
The study found that reducing the period of time between early detection or diagnosis and therapy is more successful in preventing neurodevelopment from deviating significantly.
A window of opportunity for early intervention
“These two studies confirm that there is a window of opportunity and it makes complete sense that early detection and intervention will affect neuroanatomical development components at a stage which is most influential for the rapidly developing brain,” said Dr. Hanna A. Alonim.
“Therefore, bridging the gap between early detection, assessment, and intervention is crucial for the future of any infant at risk.”
Comments from Autism Parenting Magazine
“This research is certainly interesting and supports previous studies which suggest early intervention can play a huge part in helping people lead more independent lives in the long-run. I believe more studies will be needed in order for scientists to fully determine how to diagnose autism in a baby’s early months, but things are moving in the right direction,” said Emily Ansell Elfer, Editor of Autism Parenting Magazine.
“I recommend parents check out our guide article, Signs of Autism in Babies and Toddlers, if this research has interested them and they are looking for further support.”