Babies' Eye Contact May Offer Clue to Autism
Researchers see dropoff at 2 months, earliest sign yet
By John Johnson, Newser Staff
Posted Nov 6, 2013 3:33 PM CST
   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – A new autism study makes what looks to be a significant discovery: The first signs show up as early as two months of age in the form of reduced eye contact by babies, reports the New York Times. If the findings hold up, they could provide doctors with the earliest warning yet that a child is developing the disorder—a big deal because research suggests that the earlier treatment begins, the more effective it is. The study "tells us for the first time that it's possible to detect some signs of autism in the first months of life," one of the Emory University researchers tells the BBC. "These are the earliest signs of autism that we've ever observed."

The researchers studied two groups of kids from birth to age 2 with sophisticated eye-tracking technology. One of the groups was deemed high risk because of a sibling with autism. The researchers then went back when the kids were 3 and found a clear correlation between those who had been recently diagnosed with autism and their eye contact as babies. The dropoff began between two and six months of age, and the more severe it was, the more severe the case of autism. An autism researcher not involved with the study called it a "major, major finding." The researchers say this isn't something parents would likely be able to notice on their own, notes HealthDay via US News & Report. Nor do they want parents to panic if their child isn't maintaining constant eye contact. But "if they do have persistent concerns, they should talk to their child's pediatrician," adds one.

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Showing 3 of 30 comments
jembell
Nov 8, 2013 11:32 PM CST
I thought this was common knowledge, as not making eye contact is a classic sign. I thought that's why when you take your 2-month-old to the doctor, they ask about eye contact. I also wonder who doesn't think something is wrong when their baby doesn't look them in the eye.
JB Hamilton
Nov 7, 2013 1:09 PM CST
I'm surprised that 'reduced eye contact' is just now being mentioned as a flag for autism in very young children. In the early 1970's, I was the Demonstration Teacher/Special Educator at a major state research university working with a Child Psychologist, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, and two Speech and Language Pathologists in a multi-disciplinary team in a clinical facility called the Pediatric Language Clinic. Our team of 5 mid-twenty master's level curious people led by a nationally respected Professor observed early-on the 'reduced eye contact' of otherwise perfectly normal looking (even attractive), physically well developed pre-schoolers who lacked age-appropriate language skills. Among those children who did possess expressive language skills there was a large number who spoke using 'third person' rather than 'first person', (i.e., Billy wants cookie, rather than I want cookie). These children, of course, were autistic in the classical definition (used by Kanner) and behaved in ways that showed little or no recognition of the 'self' and easily could stare endlessly at their fingers with the great curiosity that we might reserve for staring at a newly discovered object on our desk tops. Classic autism continues to be a condition rarely observed; however, the advent of 'being on the spectrum' accounts for a growing number of individuals who might otherwise go peacefully through their lives as slightly eccentric or introverts who are quite happy with their own thoughts. Who knows?
NoFun
Nov 7, 2013 1:57 AM CST
Google "foxnews conservative brains". There you will find yet another study that shows that righty has small empathy centers and large fear centers which pretty much explains all of righty's behavior. Conservatives are by and large autistic. You do not give political power to such people ever.