As of now, professionals are only able to detect signs of autism after the first year of an infant’s life. Scientists have recently finished a study that could allow for diagnosis and intervention as early as six months. However, they noted that the study is in a nascent stage, and the simple fact that signs of autism at that early of an age are very hard to pick up on.
Scientists studied fifty infants. Twenty-five of them had siblings with autism or a history of autism in their family, and the other twenty-five did not. Those with a history of autism in the family are at a higher risk.
They gave the infants a toy to play with, and had their caregivers sit nearby them in the same room. The infants who are more prone to autism spent more time fiddling with the toy, and acknowledged their caregiver less, even when the caregiver was trying to engage the child.
Rebecca Landa is co-author of the study and Director of the Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Center for Autism and Related Disorders. She provided some insight into the study: “This is about social initiation. The baby siblings of children with autism looked less often and with less duration. It’s something parents should keep an eye on.”
Robert T. Schultz, who is the Director of the Center for Autism Research at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia but was not personally involved with the study added: “Generally, the feeling in the field is that the earlier the intervention, the better the child’s outcome.”