Catching early signs of autism in infants

About one in fifty-nine children in the U.S. has an Autism Spectrum Disorder or ASD. Diagnosis usually takes place on or after the age of three. Is it possible to spot ASD earlier? A new study by researchers at the University of Miami, with funding from the National Science Foundation, has found that infants who exhibit early signs of social difficulty and have older siblings with Autism Spectrum disorder are at high risk of being diagnosed with ASD when they are older. Building on earlier research in Daniel Messinger’s lab, PhD. candidate Katherine Martin and others studied 95 15-month old infants, both high and low risk. They examined how the infants react to being separated briefly from a parent. While most children will cry, they eventually calm down. In the study, the high-risk infants who were later diagnosed with autism had trouble calming down, even when the parent returned. The team says this indicates that the infants are not confident in their ability to be soothed. The researchers determined that these high-risk infants with insecure-resistant attachments were later more than nine times more likely to receive an ASD diagnosis than high-risk infants with secure attachments.