New Indicators for Autism Spectrum Disorders

As many people know, there is no simple, singular test that can diagnose whether or not a child has Autism. Autism Spectrum Disorders vary greatly, and the way a child is affected is very unique and complex. The process of diagnosing a child often takes months or years of evaluations by physicians and psychiatrists. However, there are now tools that have shown great promise in providing an earlier diagnosis. Early diagnosis and intervention is very beneficial to the child, as parents and doctors can plan the optimal strategy to provide the child the best care and education that suits their needs.

Since 2007, The American Academy of Pediatrics has called for all children between the age of 18 and 24 months to be screened for Autism. They have given parents a questionnaire which asks them to evaluate their child’s behavior, social cues, and motor skills. Over the span of a decade, the questionnaire has proved very effective in signaling which children should undergo further evaluation. Although they have seen success with the questionnaire, The Academy has explored newer tools to diagnose children more effectively and with greater accuracy.

Many studies have discovered that eye-tracking is a great measure of a child’s focus and ability to communicate with another. The length of time an infant can hold eye contact with another person is a great indicator of the possibility of ASD. According to a study by LiveScience, children as early as 2 to 6 months were shown to have a steady decline in eye contact, and they were later diagnosed with ASD. Currently, eye-tracking technology consists of complex computer programming, but researchers hope to develop the tool into something that can be used outside of a laboratory.

Another successful tool has been brain imagining. Not only has brain imaging helped researchers understand the foundations of Autism, but it has also improved in making diagnoses. Boston Children’s Hospital has found that it can use electroencephalograms, or EEGs, to identify factors that distinguish a child with ASD. Another scientific indicator is blood testing. Research has shown that genetics play a strong role in the development of Autism disorders, and therefore they have focused on studying the genes that they believe express a risk for Autism.

Lastly, online-tests have shown promise in revealing possible Autism disorders in young children. Tests, such as the Modified Checklist of Autism in Toddlers (M-CHAT) take only a few minutes, and can decipher whether or not a parent should focus on taking their child to a doctor for further evaluation. Although these tests are not as cutting-edge as other tools, they may play a fundamental role in flagging symptoms.

The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing scientific advances and medical research on July 1st in NYC. Speakers include Dr. Martha Herbert, Pediatric Neurologist, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Director of the TRANSCEND Research Program. Dr. Herbert will be discussing the importance of research and evaluation to detect signs of ASD. To hear Dr. Herbert speak, please select tickets here.

As Autism Awareness Month continues, ICare4Autism will be sharing more scientific news and significant research findings. We will also highlight self-advocates and stories of hope, through both entertaining and informative material, that we hope you will share with others. The month of April is a call to action for everyone to support the Autism community!

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