The prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) has increased by nearly 10-fold in the last 2 decades, owing, in part, to earlier diagnosis by community practitioners. Now, a new study in the September 2010 issue of Pediatrics reports that signs of autism may be present as early as 1 month of age.
Researchers evaluated children who received care in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to assess the early markers and diagnosis of ASD. The authors retrospectively analyzed data from an 11-year period (1994-2005) and found 28 NICU graduates who later received an ASD diagnosis. These babies were matched with 112 age-, gender-, and birth cohort-matched controls who did not have an ASD diagnosis. The behavior and development of all the babies was assessed periodically until they were approximately 2 years old.
At 1 month of age, babies who later received an ASD diagnosis showed abnormal muscle tone and different visual processing performance than non-ASD babies. Specifically, muscle tone in the arms of the ASD babies was lacking, and visual tracking abilities were diminished. At 4 months of age, the babies who later received an ASD diagnosis preferred higher amounts of visual stimulation than control babies, a trait usually observed in newborns. By 7 to 10 months of age, babies later diagnosed with ASD exhibited declines in their motor skills and mental performance, resembling children with central nervous system impairments. By 13 months of age, the developmental patterns of children later diagnosed with ASD diverged markedly from control children without an ASD diagnosis.
Read more here: Autism Evident in Newborns | Brain Blogger.
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