Detecting Autism

The race is on to find better ways to diagnose children with autism as early as possible.

HealthFirst reporter Leslie Toldo tells us about two techniques that are showing some real promise.

It may sound odd to say we need better methods of finding autism, when in the United States alone, a child is diagnosed with it every 20 minutes.

Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others, but treatments can make a big difference, especially if it’s discovered early.

A year-and-a-half-ago, Tammy watched her only child shut the world out.  “He was about almost 2, and he stopped talking. He pretty much changed.”

At three-and-a-half, Joseph still is not diagnosed.

“The youngest I’ve ever diagnosed it is at about 18 months, and that is only for a few children,” said Dr. David Childers, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

Studies show early intervention means better outcomes. Dr. Ami Klin, the director of the autism program at Yale University Child Study Center,  looks for clues to speed up the process. A child watches a video while technicians collect data from a hidden camera.

“Two year olds with autism were more likely to focus on those individual’s mouths.”

Dr. Harvey Kliman is taking diagnosis a step further. His goal is to recognize red flags for autism at birth by studying placentas.  “They were basically what I call FLPS, funny looking placentas.”

Microscopic folds in the placenta indicate that there is an abnormality. “It turns out the brains of children with autism also have these abnormal folds,” Kliman observed.

Kliman says the placenta is to a developing baby what the root system is to a tree. Bad roots — the tree won’t thrive; abnormal placenta — you can expect problems.

“The cases that have the most severe genetic problems have the worst-looking placentas,” Kliman said.

Hoping autism is preventable keeps moms like Tammy pushing for progress. “I want him to have as normal of a life as possible,” she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children be screened for during their 18- and 24-month well checks, regardless of whether they show autism-like symptoms.

Treating any disease or disorder has a lot to do with understanding the cause, and there is intense debate over just what causes autism.

HealthFirst reporter Leslie Toldo tells us about two techniques that are showing some real promise.

It may sound odd to say we need better methods of finding autism, when in the United States alone, a child is diagnosed with it every 20 minutes.

Autism is a developmental disorder that impacts a child’s ability to communicate and interact with others, but treatments can make a big difference, especially if it’s discovered early.

A year-and-a-half-ago, Tammy watched her only child shut the world out.  “He was about almost 2, and he stopped talking. He pretty much changed.”

At three-and-a-half, Joseph still is not diagnosed.

“The youngest I’ve ever diagnosed it is at about 18 months, and that is only for a few children,” said Dr. David Childers, a neurodevelopmental pediatrician at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

Studies show early intervention means better outcomes. Dr. Ami Klin, the director of the autism program at Yale University Child Study Center,  looks for clues to speed up the process. A child watches a video while technicians collect data from a hidden camera.

“Two year olds with autism were more likely to focus on those individual’s mouths.”

Dr. Harvey Kliman is taking diagnosis a step further. His goal is to recognize red flags for autism at birth by studying placentas.  “They were basically what I call FLPS, funny looking placentas.”

Microscopic folds in the placenta indicate that there is an abnormality. “It turns out the brains of children with autism also have these abnormal folds,” Kliman observed.

Kliman says the placenta is to a developing baby what the root system is to a tree. Bad roots — the tree won’t thrive; abnormal placenta — you can expect problems.

“The cases that have the most severe genetic problems have the worst-looking placentas,” Kliman said.

Hoping autism is preventable keeps moms like Tammy pushing for progress. “I want him to have as normal of a life as possible,” she said.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all children be screened for during their 18- and 24-month well checks, regardless of whether they show autism-like symptoms.

Treating any disease or disorder has a lot to do with understanding the cause, and there is intense debate over just what causes autism.

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