Discovering Autism in One-year Olds

Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) seems to be on the increase with early diagnosis by parents and physicians helping children develop and function to their highest ability. As we know there are varying degrees of ASD, but research has come a long way in helping these children, many of who would otherwise be trapped in their own world. The key is acceptance by parents so needed help is quickly found.

It all seems to have accelerated in the year 2000 with an increasing number of cases reported each year since then, yet having no definitive cause - people speculating on genetic predisposition to vaccines to any number of things.

Brain Overgrowth in Tots Is Linked to Autism   Live Science - May 3, 2011
The brains of children who have autism spectrum disorder are larger than those of other children, a difference that seems to arise before they are 2 years old, according to a new study. In 2005, researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that 2-year-old children with autism had brains up to 10 percent larger than other children of the same age. This new study reveals that the children with enlarged brains at age 2 continued to have enlarged brains at ages 4 and 5, but by no more than the amount at age 2. Brain enlargement resulting from increased folding on the surface of the brain is most likely genetic in origin and a result of an increase in the proliferation of neurons in the developing brain.

Five-minute questionnaire identifies subtle signs of autism in one-year olds - April 28, 2011
A five-minute questionnaire for parents is accurate enough to diagnose autism in children as young as one in three-quarters of the cases, claims study.

Researchers said the checklist, which could be filled out in the waiting room of doctor's surgery, could help catch the condition earlier and lead to more effective treatment.

Identifying Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at an early age allows children to start treatment sooner, which can greatly improve their later development and learning.

However, many studies show a significant delay between the time parents first report concerns about their child's behavior and the eventual diagnosis, with some children not receiving treatment until well after they have started school.

The checklist asked parent; s about the child's use of eye gaze, sounds, words, gestures, objects and other forms of age-appropriate communication. Any child who failed the screen was referred for further testing and was re-evaluated every six months until age of three.

Dr Karen Pierce, of the University of California and colleagues, followed 10,479 infants screened at 137 GP surgeries for much of their childhood.

Out of the infants, 184 failed the initial screening and received further evaluation.

To date, 32 of these children have received a provisional or final diagnosis of ASD, 56 of language delay, nine of developments delay, and 36 "other" totaling a positive predictive value of 75 per cent using the questionnaire. "There is extensive evidence that early therapy can have a positive impact on the developing brain," said Dr Pierce. "The opportunity to diagnose and thus begin treatment for autism around a child's first birthday has enormous potential to change outcomes for children affected with the disorder." The work was published in the journal of Pediatrics.

Questionnaire may help predict autism at 1 year   CNN - April 28, 2011
"Most of the studies on autism are on adolescents and adults," says Pierce, an assistant professor of neuroscience at the University of California San Diego (UCSD), in La Jolla. "Some are on children, but very few people have the ability to study autism in babies, because we can't diagnose it until 3 or 4 years.

How in the world are we going to discover the causes if we're studying brains that have had a lifetime of living with autism, and have a host of compensatory mechanisms?" The average age of ASD diagnosis is around 5 years old, though most of those children show signs of developmental problems before age 3, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are no biomarkers to indicate that a child has autism, so clinicians have to rely on behavioral clues, making diagnosis tricky. And even when a child is accurately diagnosed early, he or she often doesn't start treatment until some time after the diagnosis.

The questionnaire used in the study is a simple checklist that asks parents to say whether their baby displays certain types of communication "often," "sometimes," or "not yet." It takes just five minutes to fill out and can be scored on the spot.

The checklist does not zero in specifically on autism but "will tell you something is wrong," Pierce says. That could be the early signs of autism or another type of language or developmental delay. In the study, which appears in the Journal of Pediatrics, 137 pediatricians in the San Diego area screened more than 10,000 children who were undergoing their one-year checkup.

Of those, 184 were determined to be below the appropriate levels of development for their age, and were referred to UCSD's Autism Center of Excellence for further evaluation. Doctors examined them every six months until they were 3 years old. So far, 32 children have been definitely or provisionally diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder, 56 with a learning disorder, and nine with another disorder.

Is Autism Genetic? Researchers Home In on an Answer   CNN - April 28, 2011
Alisa Rock, whose 10-year-old son Connor has autism, says parents of autistic children often align themselves with one of two camps: There are those who believe that genes cause the disorder, and those firmly convinced that environmental factors are to blame.