The causes of autism are still unclear, but evidence is building that early intervention — before age 1 — may help mitigate or even prevent the developmental disorder from occurring in the first place. Making such early treatment more possible, researchers now report a promising new way of detecting autism in infants as young as 14 months.
Neuroscientist Karen Pierce, director of clinical research at the University of San Diego's (UCSD) Autism Center of Excellence, found that autism can be predicted by identifying young babies who have a preference for repetitive geometric patterns. Pierce and her team studied 110 babies — some showed signs of autism spectrum disorders, some exhibited symptoms of other developmental abnormalities, and about half were developing normally. Babies sat on a parent's lap and were presented with two 1-min. videos, played side by side. One video showed children stretching or dancing in a yoga class, while the other showed abstract geometric shapes changing in a repetitive pattern. Among the toddlers aged 14 months to 42 months, 100% of those who spent more than 50% of the time watching the geometric shapes were autistic.
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