The early symptoms of autism are typically noticed by parents when their child is about a year and a half to three years of age. Behavioral symptoms like fixation on a single object, or the inability to make eye contact will lead parents to question the development in their child’s development. The diagnosis of autism is typical at this age, as the symptoms become more obvious to parents or guardians.
According to Scientific American, a recent study conducted by Duke University found evidence that children with autism have more significant brain growth which is identifiable on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. 106 participants of the study were “high risk” children, meaning all were younger siblings of a child on the spectrum at a higher risk for autism. Younger siblings of children on the spectrum, also called “baby sibs”, have a 1 in 5 chance of being diagnosed with autism. Researchers additionally included about 40 babies who were considered at low risk of developing autism, as reported by Huffington Post.
The children’s brains were scanned at six months old, one-year-old, and two years old. The faster brain growth found on the images predicted, with an 80% accuracy, which high risk children would eventually be diagnosed with autism. Though promising for efficient early diagnosis, this study will need to be conducted with a larger sample group, as it is considered too small to be significant.
If further research is done with significant findings to prove a direct correlation between a high brain growth rate and an autism diagnosis, reliable and important early screening tests can be developed. Early intervention for symptoms will be possible before a child’s first birthday, when treatment is most effective. Not only could early intervention methods increase in efficacy, but also open the doors to the understanding of the neurological pathway of autism.