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January 2012



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Early signs of autism detected at six months

© Sebastian Kaulitzki – Fotolia.com

Early signs of autism detected at six months


Different brain responses found

Fri 27 Jan, 2012 12:00 am GMT

Early signs of autism can be detected in babies as young as six months old, according to new research.


A study found that babies who go on to develop autism show different brain responses when someone looks at them or looks away.


The scientists, from Birbeck College London, said that measuring brain activity in infants may help identify infants most at risk of developing autism, so they can be helped at an earlier age.


There are more than half a million people in the UK with autism, a lifelong developmental condition which affects how someone communicates and interacts with other people.


Currently, a diagnosis of autism in children is not made until after the age of two, when behavioural signs linked to the condition are more apparent.


The research team looked for early signs of the disorder in 104 infants aged between six and 10 months old. Half of the infants were known to be at higher risk of developing autism because they had an older brother or sister with the condition, and the remaining half were used as a control group for comparison.


It’s already known that older children with autism can show different patterns of eye contact and brain responses when interacting with people.


So the scientists placed sensors on the babies scalps to monitor brain activity while they looked at pictures of faces that switched from looking at them to looking away from them.

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Anxiety, other disorders more common in autism

By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK | Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:13am EST


(Reuters Health) – Autism tends to go hand in hand with a variety of other mental and behavioral conditions in kids, suggests a new study that highlights the fuzzy nature of autism diagnoses themselves.


Researchers said that other disorders that often go along with autism — such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities — may complicate the diagnosis, or slow down any improvement in kids who do get diagnosed and treated early.

“The most important message that (the study) underscores is that these children tend to have multiple disabilities, not just autism,” said Johnny Matson, who studies autism spectrum disorders and intellectual disabilities at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge but wasn’t involved in the new research.

Dr. Andrew Zimmerman from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Lexington and his colleagues found that the conditions they typically saw occurring together with an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis varied depending on the age of the child.

Learning disabilities were more common in the youngest kids with an autism spectrum disorder, while anxiety, speech problems and seizures were more often seen in elementary school kids and teens.

The study also found that one-third of kids who had ever been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder no longer had the diagnosis at the time their parents were surveyed.

The researchers note in their report, published in Pediatrics, that past studies have also found that some kids who originally have an autism spectrum disorder eventually lose that diagnosis and are no longer considered autistic.

Whether that’s due to a mistaken first diagnosis or actual changes in kids’ brains and behaviors is controversial.

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