A new study published in the September issue of Pediatrics followed 28 babies who spent time in the NICU and were later diagnosed with autism. According to HealthDay, “At 1 month, infants later diagnosed with autism were more likely to show persistent neurobehavioral abnormalities after hospital discharge than other babies.”
Additionally NICU babies later diagnosed with autism “were more likely to have abnormal muscle tone and differences in their visual processing” at 1 month old. At 4 months, those same infants “preferred higher amounts of visual stimulation than other babies their age,” and at 7-10 months, they “showed a decline in their thinking and motor skills.” At just over a year, autism symptoms become more obvious and are usually noticable to parents.
Early autism detection would provide for earlier intervention, thus resulting in an easier and more effective treatment process. Study authors concluded, “Intervention by age 2 offers the best outcome.”
Dr. Rebecca Landa, director of the Center for Autism & Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, says, “We are now thinking it’s not the obvious old standbys like facial expression and eye contact that will be the main signs of autism in an infant.” Naturally, more research is necessary to identify whether or not babies who do not spend time in the NICU exhibit the same symptoms on the same schedule before these abnormalities can be considered signs of autism.
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