ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta) – A collaborative study conducted by researchers from several organizations, including Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, found that signs of autism are present in the first months of a child’s life.
A team of experts from Children’s Healthcare, as well as the Marcus Autism Center and Emory University’s School of Medicine, found that indicators of autism can be found in the way children observe others, a release posted by the center indicates.
Researchers additionally found that such symptoms can be observed in children as young as 2 months old.
“We found a steady decline in attention to other people’s eyes, from 2 until 24 months, in infants later diagnosed with autism,” Dr. Ami Klin, director of Marcus Autism Center, said in the press release.
She added, “Both these factors have the potential to dramatically shift the possibilities for future strategies of early intervention.”
Two groups of infants were followed for the study – one at a low risk of having disorders within the autism spectrum, and the other, at a high risk, which was determined by looking for a family history of autism. The study subjects were monitored from birth until age 3.
“By following these babies from birth, and intensively within the first six months, we were able to collect large amounts of data long before overt symptoms are typically seen,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Warren Jones, according to the release.
Eye-tracking technology used to gauge their responses to visual stimuli and social cues, helping those involved in the research determine whether or not autism indicators were present in infants.
“First, these results reveal that there are measurable and identifiable differences present already before 6 months,” Klin said of the team’s findings. “And second, we observed declining eye fixation over time, rather than an outright absence.”