As with so many conditions, early detection is key when it comes to successfully treating autism. That’s why pediatricians look for such telling traits in young children as difficulty making eye contact and/or a lack of general interest in people — these symptoms can predict a later diagnosis with autism spectrum disorders. Until recently, even the earliest “early” detection wasn’t quite early enough — researchers couldn’t tell if these indicators were present during the first year of a child’s life. But a groundbreaking study conducted at Yale School of Medicine found that “deficits in social attention” could be detected in babies as young as 6 months of age who later developed autism.
Said Katarzyna Chawarska, associate professor at the Yale Child Study Center: “This study highlights the possibility of identifying certain features linked to visual attention that can be used for pinpointing infants at greatest risk for ASD in the first year of life. This could make earlier interventions and treatments possible.”
Which, of course, could make a tremendous difference in the lives of autistic children and their families. I’ll admit, my first reaction to this study was one of concern — all I could picture was a bunch of nervous first-time moms driving themselves crazy trying to figure out if their babies were making enough eye contact. But these findings are far too significant to waste time worrying about. This is definitely GOOD news.