Two Indicators Used in Early Diagnosis of ASD

Researchers have discovered that two particular indicators can help identify Autism disorders in children as young as nine months old, which is more than a year younger than the average age of screening. According to Carole A. Samango-Sprouse, associate clinical professor of pediatrics at George Washington University, measuring a child’s head circumference, as well as studying their head tilting reflex, could both determine if children between the ages of 9 to 12 months is Autistic.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that most children are not diagnosed with Autism until they are at least 4 years old. Although parents of Autistic children have noticed developmental problems throughout their first year of life, there was no official method that could diagnose a child at this age. Samango-Sprouse states, “what physicians are missing is a quick and effective screening measure that can easily be given to all infants, and identify ASD before 12 months”.

Therefore, researchers looked into the head tilting reflex, as well as head circumference, as biomarkers. They focused on 1,000 infants, and screened them during their four, six, and nine-month checkups. The infants underwent a more extensive evaluation at the nine-month mark.

If the infant’s head circumference was at or above the 75th percentile, or those with a head circumference discrepancy of at least 10 percent in proportion to the baby’s height, were deemed at risk for ASD. Furthermore, children were estimated to be at risk for ASD or developmental delays if they could not pass a head tilting reflex test. These children then underwent further evaluation by a neurodevelopmental specialist and a pediatric neurologist.

Of the one-thousand infants studied, 49 showed signs of having developmental delays. More specifically, 15 of those children were deemed at-risk for Autism. Furthermore, 14 out of these 15 children were clinically diagnosed with the disorder once they reached the age of three years old. Based on the high accuracy rate, researchers will continue using these methods to evaluate the possibility of developmental delays, including Autism, in infants. Dr. Alicia Gropman, division chief of neurogenetics at Children’s National Hospital states, “the sooner we can identify those children who are at risk, the sooner we can intervene and provide treatment”.

The ICare4Autism International Conference will be discussing significant Autism research and scientific advances on July 1st in NYC. Speakers include Dr. Martha Herbert, Assistant Professor of Neurology at Harvard Medical School, and Pediatric Neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Herbert will be discussing the evaluation methods of neurodevelopmental disorders, and the new methods of research that are being done in the Autism field. To hear Dr. Herbert speak, please select tickets here.

As Autism Awareness Month continues, ICare4Autism will be sharing more of the ways researchers are studying signs of ASD, as well as recent scientific advances in treating the disorder. We will also be highlighting several self-advocates and stories of hope. We hope that you will share these stories, and use the month of April to spread awareness about Autism! Please make a difference and donate today!

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