One of every 88 people are affected by a disorder on the autism spectrum, and new research indicates that autism can be seen in newborns as young as two months old. The Emory University School of Medicine led a new study, published in Nature, which examined the facial features of infants aged up to three. Researchers found that those later diagnosed with autism showed an inability to make eye contact in the very first few months of their life. "These are the earliest signs of autism that we've ever observed,” said Dr. Warren Jones, the lead researcher.
The study looked at 60 babies who were considered at high risk of having autism, and 51 who were considered low-risk. 13 were ultimately diagnosed with the disorder. Minimal or lacking eye contact has been known to be a trademark in detecting autism, but until now it wasn't clear when this behavior starts to occur. This new report could change that: the researchers discovered a lack of eye contact in babies later diagnosed with autism, as early as two months old.
Autism research has seen significant breakthroughs in recent years. Back in August, Bustle reported:
A cross-university study found a link between induced labor and autism — but it's not that inducing labor "gives" infants autism. Rather, researchers think that autistic children are more likely to have problems that will lead to difficult deliveries.
Both autism and induced labors have seen significant rises over the last few years, but based on the results, doctors said they won't be advising different practices.
The new Emory research could have serious impact, potentially leading to earlier diagnoses for people with autism and, in turn, a better chance at managing the disorder. But some analysts take issues with the study: Caroline Hattersley from the National Autistic Society told BBC News that, since the research is "based on a very small sample,” the hypothesis should be tested on a larger scale before any premature conclusions are drawn.
"No two people with autism are the same, and so a holistic approach to diagnosis is required that takes into account all aspects of an individual's behavior," continued Hattesley. "A more comprehensive approach allows all of a person's support needs to be identified."