Researchers and therapists stress the importance of early detection and intervention for children with autism, and parents are told to follow a checklist. The absence of normal behaviors, rather than the presence of abnormal ones, is what parents should be looking for in their infants. These include checking to see if the baby is making eye contact when being fed, initiating or responding to cuddling, and reaching out to be picked up.
In a recent study conducted by Vasu Reddy of the University of Portsmouth, babies as young as 2 to 4 months old have an understanding that they are about to be picked up. When the babies feel this coming, they stiffen their body in anticipation, which in turn makes it easier to be picked up. The babies were also seen widening or raising their arms, to create a space for their mother to hold them. Professor Reddy suggests that infant developmental researchers should re-evaluate their studies, as the babies understand other people’s actions toward them at an earlier age.
His findings may also help in the diagnosis of autism, to use as an early indicator of developmental delays. Researchers Dr. Gabriela Markova of theCzechAcademyof Sciences,Prague, and Dr. Sebastian Wallot of the University of Aarhus conducted a study in 1943 on this topic, and found that children with autism do not adjust their bodies prior to being picked up and cuddled by their mothers.
The study’s findings show the need for more extensive research to “examine the extent to which infants discriminate between different kinds of actions directed at them…and how infant anticipation of these actions is influenced.” [i]
[i] “Science Daily” Babies know when a cuddle is coming. 25 Jun 2013. Web. <http://theautismnews.com/latest-news/english/babies-know-when-a-cuddle-is-coming/>