Repetitive Behaviors May Be Earliest Signal of ASD

Parents of children with Autism often wonder if their other children will develop an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to recent research, there may be a simple way for parents to detect the signs of ASD in siblings of those with the disorder.

The study, which included 184 children at high risk for Autism, found that those who eventually developed ASD showed red flags as early as 12 months. In particular, these children had an alarmingly high rate of repetitive behaviors, which include rocking back and forth, flapping their arms, of focusing obsessively on a particular toy or object.

Although some amount of repetitive behavior is normal for a young child, those who developed ASD were shown to excessively repeat their actions. Lead researcher, Jason Wolff, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill states, “In typically developing children, [repetition] usually peaks around 6 months. In children who go on to develop Autism, repetitive behavior is still highly prevalent or even increasing, at the age of 12 months.”

The study followed 59 children at average risk for Autism and 184 at high risk, as they had an older sibling with the disorder. Once the child was at least 12 months old, the parents answered a questionnaire on repetitive behaviors. Forty-two of the high risk children were diagnosed with Autism by the age of 2, and those children had shown excessive repetitive behaviors when they were 12 months.

An advantage of this screening method is that parents simply need to observe their child and take measure of how much they tend to repeat their actions. Although this is a basic measure of the possibility of ASD in a child, Wolff and his team want to fine-tune the way these behaviors are measured.

Although there is no clear cause for Autism, scientists believe it is largely due to genetics. Therefore, if a child has Autism, the risk for their sibling to develop the disorder is about 20%. As a result, there is a great need to spot the signs of ASD in children as soon as possible. Children should receive speech and development therapies as early as possible to give them the best care.

The ICare4Autism International Autism Conference will be discussing other research studies, as well as the road to opportunity and best treatments for those with ASD. This Autism conference will take place in NYC on June 30th  to July 2nd. 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. Early bird ticket specials are still available! This is an Autism conference you will not want to miss!

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