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Autism and early developmental trajectories

A recent American study was unable to predict at age six months, with the tools used, which children out of a group of 235 would go on to receive a diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). However, the study did show different developmental paths for children later diagnosed as early onset (diagnosis made by 14 months) or later onset ASD (diagnosis made after 14 months).
  • At age six months the tools used by the study could find no difference in language or motor development between children who would later receive a diagnosis of ASD and those who would not.
  • By 14 months the children receiving an early onset diagnosis showed much lower scores than the later onset children for expressive language and shared positive affect.
  • At 14 months the children receiving a later onset diagnosis also showed some signs of developmental delay, but these were not specific to ASD.
  • By 18 months the early onset children also showed greater delays in receptive and expressive language development.
  •  By 24 months these differences between both groups of children had vanished and by 36 months both were comparable in their social and developmental characteristics.
In summary: Using these tools the study showed that those children receiving an early onset diagnosis showed specific ASD characteristics by the age of 14 months, while children receiving a later onset diagnosis had developmental delays that were not necessarily specific to ASD. There were no differences between the two groups of children by the age of 24 months. It should be noted that many parents know that there is something troubling about their child's development several months before these diagnostic tools become effective. The tools used in the study were:
  • The Mullen Scales of Early Learning to measure motor and language functioning
  • The Communication and Symbolic Behavior Scales Developmental Profile to measure two social functions related to the diagnostic criteria for ASD.
Of the 235 children in the study, 204 had siblings who had received a diagnosis of ASD. Landa, R. J., Gross, A. L., Stuart, E. A. and Faherty, A. (2012), Developmental Trajectories in Children With and Without Autism Spectrum Disorders: The First 3 Years. Child Development. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01870.x link here Via Medscape (registration required)
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Welcome to ourNews, where we keep up-to-date with research and other news related to infant mental health. These articles can be of interest to both parents and professionals.
We are keen to know your views and so please do comment on our articles.
Is there a topic that you would like us to write about? Just send us a message via 'Contact us'.

ourAdvice, our other blog, has brief posts with advice for parents.

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