Brain scans may someday detect autism
February 22nd, 2011
07:00 AM ET

Brain scans may someday detect autism

Researchers are hoping that by using a common tool for measuring of brain activity in a new way, they may be one step closer to identifying whether  a child is a greater risk for autism.

"We haven't diagnosed autism at this point," says William Bosl, Ph.D., lead author and a research scientist at Children's Hospital Boston. But he says by using an electroencephalogram and new, sophisticated computer programs to analyze the EEGs, he and his co-authors were able to correctly identify with 80% accuracy, which babies were at higher risk for autism and which were not.

Scientists have known for quite some time now that the earlier a child with autism gets therapy, the easier it is to improve language and behavioral skills. In 2007, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended that all children be screened for autism at the ages of 18 months and 24 months. Here researchers are trying to find markers for autism before a child begins showing signs of autism.

In a new study published Tuesday in the journal BMC Medicine, scientists studied 79 infants. 46 babies had a brother or sister with known autism, which means they themselves are at an increased risk for the neurodevelopmental disorder that affects about one in 110 children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The sibling of a child with a confirmed diagnosis of autism has a 1 in 5 chance of also developing the disorder.  These infant siblings were compared with 33 infants with no known family history of autism.

The babies were given EEG's at 6, 9, 12, 18 and 24 months of age. Researchers strapped a net of 64 electrodes all over a baby's head while it was sitting in its mom's lap and a research assistant was blowing bubbles to hold the child's attention. The electrodes measured actual firings of neurons.  The EEG technique is much easier to use because the baby can be awake and moving and wiggling around, says Dr. Geraldine Dawson, chief science officer for the advocacy group Autism Speaks, which partially funded this research. Other brain imaging technologies like magnetic resonance imaging would require a baby to be asleep or sedated because they have to be completely still while the test is being done.  "Nobody wants to sedate a healthy infant," says Dawson.

Bosl explains that the new computer algorithms that he developed were able to analyze results of the EEG much better than in the past. He said that, judging by the differences in brain activity, he and his colleagues could detect which babies were in the high-risk group. They say they were nearly 100% accurate when the boys were 9 months old.  They were most accurate with baby girls at age 6 months. Overall, the biggest differences in brain activity were seen at 9 months – which is much earlier than when a child typically shows behavioral problems associated with autism. The differences in brain activity were smaller as the babies got older.

Doctors and scientists not connected to the study are intrigued by the results but caution that this is very early research and not something concerned parents can be looking for as a screening tool for their babies any time soon.

Sarah Paterson, Ph.D., is the director of the neuroimaging lab at the Center for Autism Research at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.  She is also looking for early signs of autism as part of the Infant Brain Imaging Study, but her work focuses on differences in brain structure. Paterson says that if the results out of Boston can be confirmed, "It's very exciting because finding an early sign for autism is really the holy grail." But she cautions that a lot more work needs to be done. "This study needs to be replicated by their lab and independent scientists," she says.

Dr. Max Wiznitzer says the researchers have found a "really fascinating technique, that offers a different way to look at the brain." Wiznitzer – a pediatric neurologist at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio – notes that what the study can't tell us is what the differences in brain activity between the two groups of babies actually mean. He, too, is hopeful that further research will provide more concrete information.

Bosl says the first children enrolled in his study are now at 2 and 3 years old, which is the age when  autism usually is diagnosed. This will now allow the researchers to evaluate them for autism and then look back at the brain activity patterns of the children who do fit the clinical criteria for autism.

Bosl acknowledges that if this is very early research, but he believes if the results are confirmed, it may lead to a safe and inexpensive way to detect autism, which would allow intervention before any autistic behaviors appear.
"It'll change the field, if this works," says Bosl. He hopes to expand the number of babies in his study to 200. "The only thing slowing us down right now is funding."

soundoff (756 Responses)
  1. Chris Hall

    Being able to detect it is a wonderful thing but how about focus on what causes it as well? Even better, how about developing some better therapies and safer medications for our younger children with the disorder?

    February 22, 2011 at 08:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pazke

      This research will bring them much closer to a cause, and these ARE the first steps of feveloping better therapies. This is how scientific research works.

      February 22, 2011 at 09:01 | Report abuse |
    • Heather Jeane

      I'm not a dr or a scientist, only a mom of an aspie. I however, do believe that the cause of autism will eventually be linked to a chromosome or something of that nature much like Down's Syndrome. There are certain physical markers including a marked lack of flexibility and delicate almost elven features. Now I have met children who are diagnosed as being on the spectrum and do not display those physical features, but I have also noticed that their behavior and logic often doesn't totally sync up with the children who do and I am of the opinion that the diagnosis was used as a catch all in their cases.

      February 22, 2011 at 09:22 | Report abuse |
    • glowworm

      Heather, perhaps not all children have the same "form" of autism. I would hate to see someone not get the compassion, empathy, and care that they need, because someone else decides their diagnosis couldn't be right.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
    • Another Mother

      As a mother of a child diagnosed with Asperger's, I'm appalled that you seem to feel that your son is his diagnosis Heather. Labeling him an "aspie"? He's not Asperger Syndrome. He was diagnosed with it. Your son is a boy. Who happens to navigate through life in a different way from neurotypical people. And I've yet to meet any child in the dozens of support groups who hold these "elven" features you speak of. You're as bad as Jenny McCarthy. Do all Neurotypical people exhibit similar behavior? No, they don't. Then don't assume because your child and my child are different that your son's case is "real" and mine is "not real".

      With that said, this is a huge step in the right direction for finding answers.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:41 | Report abuse |
    • Lasciel

      @glowworm – agreed! It's called Autism Spectrum Disorder for a reason. We are likely lumping several different causes into the same diagnosis because it has the same end point (diabetes is a good example of another disease we do this with). This likely ends up confusing a lot of research to find the cause if the mechanisms are different.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:40 | Report abuse |
    • Joe in Colorado

      Why not just give "autism therapy" to all babies? From what I've read, it's just basically playing with the baby and showing them videos to get them thinking in a certain way.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
    • ekko369

      heatherjean: i am a parent advocate, have a son DIAGnosed with autism and have never seen "elfen" looks. i caution you to avoid stereotyping anyone with a disability or disorder. it is hard enough w/o people and their dime store ideas. i am sorry that you have so little understanding of your sons disorder, perhaps a little more time learning and little less time judging would do you some good.

      February 22, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
    • sabercro

      Heather, I have a grandson that is about to turn 3 years old, at 2 years he was diagnosed with autism and immediately began interactive therapy. He does not have "elven" features, nor does he lack flexibility, in fact is very flexible and looks like his dad did at that age (his dad has a masters degree in wildlife biology, and his mother is an RN). As others have said, your assesment of the physical characteristics do not add up....

      Very interesting article, and a very hopeful one. I'll be following this closely in the years ahead.

      February 22, 2011 at 14:38 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Heather, if your child has an elven appearance and learning disability, he most likely is NOT autistic.
      Look up Williams syndrome. Bring it up with your physician. Because, there IS a potential for life threatening issues that can be mitigated with proper preventative care with Williams syndrome.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
    • KDW

      Wzrd1 thanks for posting about William's Syndrome to this parent. I'm an SLP and that was the first thing I thought of after reading the post about the elven features. This is usually not a hard syndrome to diagnose so I would be surprised, that if it is Williams, that it would have been missed.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:58 | Report abuse |
    • ABA

      What do you mean develop better therapies? The GOLD STANDARD is Applied Behavior Analysis and everyone should know it! The only people who should develop the treatment plans for these children are Board Certified Behavior Analysts! BCBA's have to pass a rigorous certification exam and are required to upkeep their certification in order to practice. I can't imagine why anybody would believe all the dumb phony fad treatments out there endorsed by the likes of Jen McCarthy (bimbo central).

      February 23, 2011 at 08:42 | Report abuse |
    • Dr Michael Linden - Attention Learning Centers

      In 2004, we discovered 6 subytpes of Autism & 2 subtypes of Aspergers based on QEEG. Most people with ASD have several subtypes because they are all unique. We use these subtypes not only to confirm a diagnosis, but to select individualized treatments (neurofeedback, medication, etc.). This research together with other EEG treatment research was published in an article published in the Journal of Applied Psychophysiolgy & Biofeedback in Jan 2010.

      March 23, 2011 at 01:59 | Report abuse |
  2. Quizzle

    "Other brain imaging technologies like magnetic resonance imaging would require a baby to be asleep or sedated ". This is completely untrue. There is currently research using MRI on non-sedated babies going on at Washington University in St. Louis, and has been for years. They are scanning at-risk siblings of autistic children. All you have to do to scan a baby is wait for it to sleep. They sleep quite soundly!

    February 22, 2011 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jimmy James

      Perhaps reading comprehension failed you in your own quote. It quite clearly says the baby would have to be ASLEEP (emphasis added) or sedated.

      February 22, 2011 at 08:32 | Report abuse |
    • Richard G


      I have to get regular MRI scans because I have a brain tumor. The MRI machine is extremely loud – so loud I have to wear headphones to (somewhat) deaden the noise. Does the MRI machine you are refering to have a "quiet" mode or something? Seems to me if a child is only asleep, the MRI machine would easily wake it up.

      I have an autistic boy who's three years old, and I've wanted to scan him for awhile now. (I don't know why really; curiosity I guess.) I always assumed he'd need to be sedated before he could get a scan. This is the first time I'm hearing that sedation is not ideal for healthy children.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
  3. 400thecat

    Will it work in the House and Senate? God knows those children could sure use some behavioral management interventions.

    February 22, 2011 at 08:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. lrf4autism77

    Why is autism at the bottom of the funding scale on NHIS? More children have autism than all childhood diseases combined yet we are the least funded for research. Has any researcher ever compared an autistic childs brain against a non-autistic child? For example an 8 year old boy with autism and an 8 year old boy with no autism and has to be same weight and ethinic background and similar diets. There must be something they can see in the brain by doing this test. signed, dad of autistic son and autistic daughter.

    February 22, 2011 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
    • pazke

      The article did say that the differences in brain activity were smaller as the babies got older.

      February 22, 2011 at 09:06 | Report abuse |
    • T3chsupport

      There's been plenty of that. Sometimes they find things that might be causal or correlated, but haven't been able to prove anything with it yet. It presents itself in such a wide variety of ways, that just looking at the physical structure of the brain alone isn't enough to tell much. Yet.

      February 22, 2011 at 13:10 | Report abuse |
    • KDW

      There has been plenty of research trying to find differences in the brains of children with ASD compared to typically developing children. Most of these have been on older children. I know I read an article several years ago in either Discover or Scientific American on impaired mirror neuron function in children with ASD. You just need to go and search for the information if you are interested in the topic, its out there.

      February 22, 2011 at 13:52 | Report abuse |
  5. kurt

    this is a good article and I hope doctors can learn from it. http://www.bestmedigaprates.com/

    February 22, 2011 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Ray in Ferndale

    This is great, but if your insurance won't cover any Autism treatments, what's the point? I have a 3.5 yr old and two year old boys, both on the Autism spectrum. Our insurance covers nothing for them with regard to any treatment. It's left to us to absorb. Both require intensive speech and behavioral therapy at a cost of roughly $5,000 per month. I barely make $5,000 a month for a family of 4. So its left to the school system, which in MI is getting plundered by Republican Rick Snyder. The Republicans also would not allow a vote in MI to force insurance companies to cover Autism. I wholeheartedly approve of the advances they are making, but if insurance won't cover anything, why bother?

    February 22, 2011 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Annie

      If they have delays or problems can't your kids get medicaid or insurance through the state. I don't know if each state is different, but in my state if your child has some diagnosed problem or even delays that need treatment you can get health coverage no matter what your income is and even if you have another primary insurance.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:35 | Report abuse |
    • Chuck

      I am an older adult who falls on the spectrum, most likely not Asperger's, rather was autistic. I believe that while some of these therapies are important, what really made the difference for me was living in a much smaller house (so I could not isolate myself so much), and sharing a room with my sister my entire childhood. My parents were poor, and people where I lived didn't even know what autism was, but, because we didn't have TV and my parents just saw me as needing constant focus to help me learn to not only fit in socially, but to behave properly and to function in the classroom to the best of my ability. I am so grateful to this day for where I grew up, and for parents who, though they didn't know what was wrong, they did the best they could to work with whatever need I had.

      You don't need so much money, if you are tuned into your child and you don't live in a gigantic house where your autistic child can just "go away" and not be a constant part of your family (by their own choice, I mean). Autistics have to learn how to be social, how to talk , how to do so many things that others do without that extra help; today's seeming "need" for a house the size of what would have been a mansion in my day, is hurting these children. We don't even notice how much trouble they are in because so many children aren't even learning the basics of good manners (no one thinks they have time)0enough for these children), so they are just one more difficult, rude child–just more so. From my own experience, I know how much they are hurting inside.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:38 | Report abuse |
    • Kelly

      Annie – Sadly, someone who makes $5,000 is not going to qualify for any govt-funded insurance like Medicaid. It's a heartbreaking story that happens over and over every day – knowing that there are treatments that will dramatically help your children, but it's just out of reach financially. Early intervention can actually save money in the long run in terms of costlier care in later years, but insurance companies often aren't willing to cover autism treatment (aside from drugs) unless forced to by law.

      February 22, 2011 at 13:33 | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      Ray you need to contact local children services in your city. There are a lot of places that can help you. The school i s a great starting point but you have to stay on top of them. We have an autistic/Aspergers son who is now 16 and has been through lots of treatment through the school and behavior modification and it has done a great job. But we had to stay on top of them to get what we wanted from them. There are laws the schools have to follow so I would suggest also seeking out your School District for the specific guides they have to follow. Also google or bing Autism Research and Resources for your area. ARC is a nationwaide organization that may also be able to help you get better information and resources even though your child isn't Mentally Retarded. Adult and Family Services or whatever your city has for welfare is another great place to start. You may not get the answers you want right away but keep trying. In Arizona we have a Southwest Autism Research & Resource Vocational & Life Skills Academy Center 602-340-8717. They also may be able to get you going in the right direction. Don't give up by saying "Why bother" if we all did that we would be nowhere. Research needs to continue so it will be as common as getting an MRI and covered. We were dealt a difficult hand but autistic children CAN do a lot of things and it does get better with time.

      February 22, 2011 at 13:47 | Report abuse |
    • KDW

      As an early intervention speech therapist I have some suggestions for you to try. One thing is the 3.5 y/o qualifies for services through the school system. They are federally mandated to provide this service to you. You can definitely get speech services this route and depending on what state you live in you may be able to get behavioral therapy as well. You may have to provide transportation for your child to the school but therapy (ST, OT, PT) would be available even if you decide to home school or put your child in private school. Part of the NCLB act required all states to set up some type of early intervention program for children under the age of 3. Many states provide financial assistance to families if their insurance won't cover therapy. You can also apply for medicaid disability for your children. However this is unlikely to be of much good. Most states have extremely long waiting lists for this and it can take years for a child to receive the funding. The speech therapist also may be able to change her diagnosis billing code (ICD-9 code). Many insurance companies will deny coverage for an autism diagnosis but if the provider bills it as expressive/receptive language delay (code is 315.32) then the insurance company may cover. The ST may have to ask the referring physician to change his/her diagnosis on the script, but most doctors are willing to do this when the insurance implications are explained. If your insurance company doesn't cover any speech services then this won't do any good. But if they do cover speech therapy it may be enough to get you some coverage.

      February 22, 2011 at 14:09 | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      Ray – I hope that you find a good school for your children. Parma City School System, near Cleveland, Ohio has an especially good program for handicapped children. I am a subsitute teacher in Parma, and I can see the childrens' progress. There is a pre-school where "normal" and physically and mentally handicapped children are put in the same classroom, so that they may have a role model. When they are ready for elementary school, they go to a public school in the system. They are in a separate classroom, but depending on their level of handicap can be integrated into a regular classroom for part of the day. I've seen some children progress a lot. There is one school in particular, Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Parma, that has more handicapped children than any other. They are used to being around each other. Despite cutbacks in Ohio, the teachers are doing a wonderful job.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse |
    • cpw789

      You may have already looked into this but ...

      see what you can get through the school system. We have a good quality preschool program here. The kids get the services they need at school during the day, allowing life at home to follow a predictable routine, instead of a chaotic collection of visits for each type of therapy.

      I have help with insurance paying for the medical half of it, but I still struggle to get somethings covered (Extra dental appointments.), and academic support. I can not imagine having to pay all of the bills on my own.

      February 22, 2011 at 20:13 | Report abuse |
    • lovemylittleones

      Just a heads up buddy; if your kids are diagnosed go to social security and have them declared disabled. the money won't cover ALL costs but will help take the sting out of speech therapies. there is no income "cutoff".hope this helps.

      March 25, 2011 at 16:10 | Report abuse |
  7. Kevin

    I'm with you Ray, there are so many issues with Autism – identification, treatment, care and cost issues. I think the govt doesn't know how to handle it and is burying their heads in the sand hoping it will go away like SIDS did. I liken it to the new AIDS crisis yet no one is doing anything about it. Probably because the parents who normally scream about these things are too busy running to therapies, doctors, schools and trying to handle their children that by the end of the day we're exhausted, broke and yipping at each other.

    February 22, 2011 at 09:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. jsmink

    If you have a child with autism and can't afford treatment, do some research on what states provide services for free or reduced cost. I live in Arizona and once your child is diagnosed and approved by the state, they pay for EVERYTHING. He has full health insurance (not just autism related health issues), 2 hours of speech therapy, 1 hour of physical therapy, 10 hours /week with a habilitation worker and he goes to a special prechool at 3 for three days a week. All this doesn't cost a thing. The state realizes that early intervention pays off big dividends in the end and ends up saving taxpayers in the end. Many kids get this early treatment and after a few years can be in main stream classes rather then spending their entire life in special ed.

    February 22, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kevin

      Maybe in your state. FL doesn't have anything. Just filing takes over a year and then what? NADA.

      February 22, 2011 at 10:42 | Report abuse |
    • scijah

      Thanks, jsmink, for the info. How long did it take you/your child to get services after signing up? Does AZ help in foster care/home in the short term and in the long term? In Texas, it normally takes more than 8 years to receive any help from the state and it only covers medicaid and foster care, although this could carries through the adult life if needed. There is a catch to this: if a child/person receiving this coverage/benefit ever receives more than $2K through any kinds of income (working, inheritance, etc.) they will automatically be dropped from the program. And get back in line again!!!!

      February 22, 2011 at 10:50 | Report abuse |
    • ejones

      There is TEFRA, i believed it is a nationwide, federal run but state implemented program. It is a medicaid program, but based on medical needs. My son is on the spectrum. BTW, heather, yes Aspie, REALLY?? That is awful. To some up a lot of posts I read in to one reply: my son is considered very mild, high functioning. He started his therapy so early, that he doesnt even qualify for SPED in the schools (which is a blessing) but he still needs some speech therapy outside of school time. He doesn't exhibit all of the attributes of autism clearly, so people think he misbehaves, etc. He is misunderstood at times. It is hard on him. He is so high functioning it is hard for all of is. It is like we are on a teeter-totter between average and the spectrum. The dog barking will set him off or me yelling at him will too. Some days are melt downs. I am thankful for him though and how well off he is. I know there are many not as well off in this world, in many ways.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:54 | Report abuse |
    • jsmink

      There are 2 different systems in AZ. One for under 3 and one for over 3 and they have different rules. It was about a 2 month process to get approved for the under 3 progam and when he turned 3, it was maybe anoth month of process. The people who were in charge were very good to work with and it wasn't too hard. Our son was almost 3 and had no speech, flapped, teeth grinding, and walked on his toes but he lacked a lot of other issues common to autistic kids. He doesn't through tantrums that are abnormal for his age and is very affectionate. My point is that he wasn't an extreme case and we were still able to get him help. After 6 months he has gone through dramatic changes. He talks, although in 1 or 2 word requests and struggles with pronunciation but he is a different child. his social interaction with peers and strangers has increased a lot too. Getting early help does help and if your state doesn't provide help, I would suggest looking at what states might and consider moving. I know it's not easy for everyone to pick up and change states but it will benefit your child for the rest of their life and it may not need to be a permanent move.

      February 22, 2011 at 14:02 | Report abuse |
  9. samantha

    my classmate has autism and he gets startled very easily and he also studders.

    February 22, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Ames Wolff

    It is important to detect Autism and more important to prevent the onset. The ability to detect low levels of intracellular glutathione in parents and their infants prior to vaccinations with Thimerosol may go a long way in determining if a physiology is able to protect against the damaging effects of Ethyl mercury.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mike

      Have you looked at how many childhood vaccines still contain thimerosal? Considering you didn't know how to spell it, I am going to go with no..


      February 22, 2011 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      According to all studies that have not been discredited, vaccines play no part in causing autism. The thimerasol scare was generated from one very small study that has not only been discredited, but the author of the article is being sued for falsifying data.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse |
    • Hello?


      I am assuming that you are attempting to educate us all about Dr. Wakefield and his MMR study. FYI...that had/has nothing to do with thimersol.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:39 | Report abuse |
    • KDW

      You are aware that none of the standard vaccines contain thimerosal anymore and haven't for several years now. The only vaccine that does not have an alternate with no thimerosal are tetanus only shots. Though you can get the DPT without thimerosal so you might as well go ahead and get a booster of DPT instead of just getting a tetanus booster. Some of the flu vaccines still contain thimerosal so you may need to see if an alternate is available for that.

      February 22, 2011 at 14:19 | Report abuse |
    • Leah

      @Ames – stay in school, you have a ways to go.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:57 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      While I have heard that the Wakefield study has supposedly been disproven, I believe there is still a "connection" between vaccines and autism. I'm a mom of a son who was diagnosed with PDDNOS, and I can tell you exactly when he "changed." It was right after his 15 mos. vaccines. Do I believe that vaccines CAUSE autism? No. If they did, every kid would be autistic or have some type of symptom. I do believe it acts as a trigger for certain kids. I don't if it's a protein they have or what, but I believe when the vaccine is introduced to their system there is some sort of "reaction." After the reaction you could have an autistic child. What do I know? I'm just a mom with a child who lives with PDDNOS, and can pinpoint when he changed.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:27 | Report abuse |
  11. Rushidhruva

    Very true,someone really needs to address this issue of insurance companies having to mandatorily cover for ABA and other therapies for autism because currently very few do and so many children are not even having that opportunity and it's absolutely not right.I can't imagine how the future generation is even going to look like given the estimate that 1 in every 160 kids are diagnosed with this monster called AUTISM, everyday,that is wrecking our children's lives and unfortunately the organizations in authority that needs to be doing something about this are just turning away and it's just pathetic.Yeah,find out how many kids are at risk of actually getting diagnosed with autism and then WHAT?????????????Like getting a diagnosis and then not getting any help for it is going to help them in their lives!!!! PLEASE,THINK ABOUT IT.These children have a right to get all the help they can and denying that opportunity is just insane.From a mom of an autistic child.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • scijah

      I wholeheartedly agree with you. I, too, have a son with autism. One thing we need to recognize that it is not only the insurance companies that avoid this problem, it is also the companies we work for as well. As I pressed for answers from my insurance and my company why treatment for autism (e.g., ABA) is not covered, the final answer was that the contract between the company I work for and the insurance company does not cover treatments for autism. So, while the govt. , the politicians, insurance companies, companies we work for try to minimize their costs and efforts, we and our children go on suffering. But, let's keep on trying and not giving up hope.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:04 | Report abuse |
    • ADD5

      You can nationalize the entire health "insurance" industry and you will still be begging for services. It is not the task of insurance to cover for such things in the first place. That insurance already pays for your routine checkup and the occasional common cold visit to the doctor is itself an insurance industry ruined by decades of government regulations, selected tax benefits, and mandates.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:48 | Report abuse |
    • cpw789

      In MA insurance companies have to cover these costs, with the exception of those who are effectively insured by the state. Since everyone who has the means can buy insurance that does not preclude pre-existing conditions this gives a bit of security. (You don't have stress so much about losing the a job with the insurance that covers these treatments.) Parents should also be aware that they can get services through their schools. Many school systems have excellent preschools for children with special needs, and IEP's can contain home consults with behaviorists, and should definitely include evaluations and classroom support of behaviorists. Classrooms today include a lot of group work and our children are not able to participate without someone there to support social skills and it is important that the school provide social skills groups to the child.

      February 22, 2011 at 20:04 | Report abuse |
  12. Rocksor

    Only the rich would be able to afford such a test.

    February 22, 2011 at 10:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ostrich

      Not true. This is a research study for which they actually PAY the subjects (in this case: parents or guardians) for their time and inconvenience (not much money though, usually less than $100)

      February 22, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse |
    • scijah

      Ostrich, I think you are missing half of the point here by Rocksor. Once (if ever) this research becomes a reality or "official or approved" diagnostic method, then only the rich can afford them. My current insurance company does not pay for any diagnose or treatment for autism.

      February 22, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse |
  13. Rocksor

    OMG, It's Professor X and the pre-beta version of Cerebro!

    February 22, 2011 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Barney Fife

      Heh heh... Good call!

      February 22, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
  14. Jeepers

    I've always thought this should be possible because their brains are wired differently and even have atypical size differences in different areas of the brain. It would have been nice to have when my son was in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome at 2, 3, 4...even up to 6. We kept waiting for the next test to tell us definitively exactly what was going on with him. It took a lot of observation by people who knew what they were doing. It wasn't always obvious and it was impossible to talk to people about since they couldn't see it in short periods of time. That was one of the hardest parts for us. But on the bright side, it isn't that obvious and it isn't as devastating as it is for many families. It's a pretty mild issue. The whole experience has made me a more grateful, optimistic person. And I can't imagine my sweet boy any other way.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Aezel

    Many people being diagnosed with "autism" these days aren't actually autistic. Autism is a specific brain disorder. Many of these children have other things(often other brain disorders or damage) which cause them to present some symptoms that are similar to autism but are NOT autism itself.

    For example, you are starting to see kids with brain damage from shaken baby syndrome being diagnosed as autistic! That isn't autism, it is brain damage from parental abuse. However, doctors and caretakers are too quick to just throw any developmental issue under the autistic label and call it good these days. How lazy and sad for our medical community.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Hello?

      Actually, Autism is diagnosed using the DSM criteria, which are observations of a person's behavior. There is no one known cause (at least that is accepted or tested in the scientific community) and no way to confirm the diagnosis using physical or medical criteria. So, those who meet the behaviorial criteria really do have what we call autism. Perhaps the issue is that the diagnostic criteria are woefully lacking. Unfortunately, generally accepted science has offered little else to go with.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:44 | Report abuse |
    • T3chsupport

      I'm a mom of a high functioning autistic child, and I rather agree. He acted a lot 'lower' functioning when we were going along with what doctors and therapists and stuff said to do. Then we started treating him like a normal kid. He's our first and only at the time, so we don't have any expectations of when he's to hit milestones based on other kids. He's behind in some things still, and has some 'behaviors', but he's social and happy and well behaved, and we didn't have to shell out thousands to someone with a degree but no kids of their own. He requires boundaries, and also a lot of patience. We stopped trying to raise him how we were 'supposed to', and raise him how he needs to be.

      It's called a spectrum for a reason, though. Not all parents get it quite so easy.

      February 22, 2011 at 13:32 | Report abuse |
  16. Greedo

    Funny picture. "Take me to your leader!"

    February 22, 2011 at 11:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Maddog 90/90

    Doesn't the writer know no one will be able to afford it soon!

    February 22, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Darlene Buckingham

    Nice picture – scan the brain and create cancers. Autism is being over used as a diagnosis. We are creating a terrible world for the children if we continue with this voodoo medicine. Look at the child and tell me this is a good direction to be going. Peace to ALL and may be have the wisdom and courage to get back on the path that respects life rather than profits.

    February 22, 2011 at 11:50 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim

      Wow, what a terribly misinformed post.

      EEGs are passive tests. They simply read the voltage your brain produces naturally. There is no potential for cancer, none. Voodoo Medicine? I think it's completely awesome we have the technology to record how the brain functions. I do not want to live in your world.

      February 22, 2011 at 12:23 | Report abuse |
    • Always Amused

      Darlene, Please don't become another msinformed alarmist! We already have way too many clueless people making denouncements and false claims, who know little to nothing about autism! If you are truly interested, go to the library and do some actual research and reading on the issue! ...

      February 22, 2011 at 13:16 | Report abuse |
    • arjun

      saying a person will get cancer from an eeg is like saying a doctor using a stethoscope will give their patient a heart attack.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:14 | Report abuse |
  19. Chris

    You can't get cancer from an EEG Scan. EEGs are simply recording electrical current at the scalp of the brain. Its non-invasive. Nothing is going into the brain, its reading natural electrical charges, like recording a song in a studio. Nothing is hurting the child in the picture.
    But, I do agree autism is being over used, there are other issues going on usually.
    There is hope with Neurofeedback, EEG Biofeedback, and other treatments to decrease symptoms assoicated with Autism. EEG scans help in identifying the actual physiological deficits of the brain.
    There are new non-profit organizations that will be offering QEEG, EEG scans at much more affordable prices.

    February 22, 2011 at 12:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. betty

    @Chris Autisim is being overused? Really? It is very important they have knowledge now of what is wrong with these children so they can get help. I would say 'overused' is not only an incorrect statement, it flat out means your ignorant of the facts.

    February 22, 2011 at 13:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. bighead

    Aezel, you need to relax. i am sure the woman you chastised loves her son with asp. there are much bigger things we have to come together to fight against without letting semantics turn us against each other. the behaviorist.

    February 22, 2011 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. bighead

    i am sure she Understands her child's disorder. she just thought she was in a safe haven because there were others in her situation, so she let her guard down. pointing out that pc Crap to a mother whose child is on the spectrum is nothing but a pile of Crap. and is equal to the jerk that points out soccer is called football everywher else.

    February 22, 2011 at 13:24 | Report abuse | Reply
    • lovemylittleones

      Wish there was a likebutton for your post. I can't belive how you horrible people bashed that woman.

      March 25, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
  23. eieio

    That baby is wearing one cool-looking hat. Where can I get one for my nephew?

    February 22, 2011 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. shrinkonline

    I think that the cause for Autism will be found in the environmental toxins that fetuses are are exposed to. More research needs to focus on that so we can prevent this condition.

    February 22, 2011 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leah

      You're probably one of those people who think this is new to our species. Autistic people have existed for a long time. They were called dumb for not being able to speak but proved to be brilliant minds. Even Einstein had issues learning to speak. What's so wrong with these kids anyway? Why do people think they all want or need to be cured? Really, some do not. Granted, I understand there are many who cannot care for themselves and in their cases, being able to teach them that is crucial and so very hard.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse |
  25. M&M

    Awww...poor baby....that looks like baby torture.

    February 22, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • arjun

      he looks pretty fascinated with something to me (maybe the bubbles off camera). its really no different from putting a hat on a baby - albeit a weird looking robot hat.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:15 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      He's reading everyone's mind in the room.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:24 | Report abuse |
    • Leah

      Please! Its not like they stabbed him in the head. Besides, wouldn't you rather he get the treatment needed ASAP if he is indeed autistic? Or would you rather he face the horrors many autistic children must face (and parents) when they are in public school, the grocery store, mall....read a book and maybe you'll understand.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:49 | Report abuse |
  26. lmaar2

    My 18 year old son is high functioning Asperger's. We applied for the Medicaid waiver for autism because we make too much money to get assistance of any kind in Indiana. He was denied as not deficient "enough." He has graduated from high school and he can drive, but he struggles mightily with day-to-day functioning in the real world. His first semester at college resulted in quitting his job, failing 4 of 5 classes and wrecking both his car and his laptop--in addition to going off his meds and stopping appointments at the therapist. This is after 12 years of therapy, meds, behavior modification therapy and assistance at school. His life is going to be tough. I doubt it will be long, as his emotional meltdowns are still severe and he becomes suidical when depressed. He has no friends. If the test mentioned in this article can save one child from the horror we have lived and are living, I hope they get it developed as soon as possible.

    February 22, 2011 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leah

      I completely understand what this must be like for you. Your story shows how great a sacrifice parents must make to help their child and even then, its no guarantee the child will continue the methods they were taught after leaving the home. Some might say its true for all parents but they do not know the extraordinary measures many parents of autistic children must go beyond to adequately care for their children.

      My thoughts and prayers are with you and yours.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:46 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      I have a son who is PDDNOS; it looks A LOT like Aspergers. He always had meltdowns as well. We found that gluten is a trigger for him. Have you tried him on a gluten-free diet. I had read that some Autistic kids have a leaky gut. The gluten leaks into the bloodstream and forms peptides. It acts like an opiate. Once we eliminated the gluten from his diet, upped his omega-3's, and give him 50mg of vitamin b complex, the meltdowns are far and few between. He used to have them several times a week, and would also get violent at me. Maybe this could help him?

      February 22, 2011 at 16:38 | Report abuse |
  27. Joe

    the photo looks like a young Professor Xavier (X-Men)

    February 22, 2011 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rocksor

      Baby-X to you!

      February 22, 2011 at 15:25 | Report abuse |
  28. Brian

    For those kids diagnosed with autism, the University of Missouri has developed a curriculum to help children with autism learn social competency. This video explains more: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aCts-2VJGOI

    February 22, 2011 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Arman Khodaei

    I have autism and I believe early intervention is important. The earlier autism is treated and diagnosed the more likely someone with autism will grow up to be like me and have a successful future. For anyone that is interested, I maintain a blog describing my experiences with autism at http://www.armankhodaei.com I encourage you to visit that site. I have many interesting articles discussing what it was like as me as child with autism, as a teenager, why I stim, why eye contact is hard, etc. http://www.armankhodaei.com

    February 22, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leah

      I must commend you on your blog. Using your life experience shows parents their children can also 'breakthrough' to a life they enjoy for themselves. So, for that, I thank you.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:39 | Report abuse |
  30. Henkv

    Is this study done by the same guy who proved that autism was caused by the lack of provable lawsuits against immunizations? What's next? A brain scan to sell more Ritalin?

    February 22, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim

      What in the world is the point of your comment? Are you one of the crazies alleging a giant conspiracy between scientists, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, and the government? Or have I misread you?

      February 22, 2011 at 15:23 | Report abuse |
    • Leah

      The brainscan was what told me the Ritalin wouldn't work. In my son's case, the ADD/ADHD meds caused him to become suicidal at 5 years old. Now, if he were 'just a boy' I wouldn't put him on meds! I would let him be but in his case, this was way outside the norm. All the doctors kept telling me was to keep him on the meds even though I knew it wasn't working. They said he wasn't autistic, just had ADHD. I would go back (I've seen quite a few "Dr.s" in my struggle for answers) and they'd see my son was still just as hyper as before or not worse. So they increase the meds and add sleep meds so he'd go to bed!?! I said, "Screw that!", and paid 100% for the brainscan. In the end, all the money I spent on the scan saved me and my boy millions worth of true expenses and grief. WORTH IT.

      So...you are incorrect.

      February 22, 2011 at 15:36 | Report abuse |
  31. Leah

    My son's Asperger's Syndrome was detected by a brain scan. I tried everything in the book from the psychiatrists, therapists, counselors who all said he was ADHD. The scan revealed my son's brainwaves were not similar to ADHD children and instead were more similar to what has been found in autism (areas of the brain which lit up matched autistic brainscans). Now, admittedly, I cried when I got the diagnosis but, these years later, I am so proud of my son and see past the label of autistic or aspie.

    February 22, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Leah

      At least now I know if I put him on meds I'm not just taking a wild guess. Now I know why my son did strange things and was able to work with him. Now I know I wouldn't change a thing. I do not believe the cause is environmental. I believe it is genetic as he has grown into a boy who is so similar to the adult men in our family. Men who my son never met before but were awkward and brilliant. Now I understand and I'm okay. I want other parents to be okay too and just love their child.


      February 22, 2011 at 15:31 | Report abuse |
    • Rocksor

      Temple was diagnosed with severe autism at 4 years of age. Today, her diagnosis is different and would fall under the category Asperger's, since there is no diagnosis for high functioning autism.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:50 | Report abuse |
    • cpw789

      From what I know Temple Grandin would not be diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome. She had very significant speech delays. Absence of significant speech delays is part of what distinguishes folks with Asperger's from people on other parts of the autism spectrum.

      February 22, 2011 at 19:50 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      Actually Dr. Grandin today would have been diagnosed with severe autism. According to the DSM-IV Aspergers do not possess a speech delay. Just because someone adapts enough to be articulate does not mean they don't have classic autism. Children with Aspergers have no speech delay in fact they are often advanced in speaking abilities, talking early with a large vocabulary. I have a son who has autism, after 3 years of intense ABA and VB therapy he now can express himself verbally, this isn't because he was misdiagnosed it is because we spent 40+ hours every week for the past 3 years learning to understand him and helping him to adapt to a world where the average person's brain works very different from his own. The fact Temple can speak so well today is a testament to all the work her mother and she herself has done in her life. Also it is a common myth that Aspergers = higher functioning, it is a spectrum and people with Aspergers can be just as affected as someone with autism or PDD-NOS. However again Dr. Grandin by today's standards would have been considered a severe case of autism, not high-functioning.

      February 23, 2011 at 13:58 | Report abuse |
  32. ADD5

    it is a blatant lie that the earlier a child is detected with Autism, the better the outcome if intervention is applied. There is no evidence for this. Nothing but flawed research and wishful thinking.

    February 22, 2011 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rocksor

      I'm sorry that intervention didn't help you.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:53 | Report abuse |
    • cpw789

      There is actually a lot of good research and data on this point. Some types of intervention definitely help. A preschool geared toward the needs of these children and appropriate attention and rewards can make a huge difference. I don't know where you are getting your information from but why not hold to your fingers until you do some real research yourself. Have you ever thought that you might keep someone from getting the help that could make all of the difference in their life.

      February 22, 2011 at 19:46 | Report abuse |
    • Anna

      There are countless well structured scientific studies that prove early ABA therapy provides much better results than ABA later on in life. I'm sorry you feel that way, but you are thankfully sorely mistaken.

      February 23, 2011 at 14:00 | Report abuse |
  33. Faisal

    the cause of autism has been understood for a long time, but the facts have been shredded up and burned by greedy CEOs..

    February 22, 2011 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Faisal

    have any of you taken into thought or considered that a CEO of a corporation sees good news in medical science as bad news for its shareholders? yea this has been going on for 30+ years.

    February 22, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Tim

      You are a conspiracy theorist, nothing more.

      February 22, 2011 at 16:04 | Report abuse |
  35. SLP12

    This is wonderful research. Early intervention is absolutely beneficial to children with autism! Hopefully this promising research will lead to more funding.

    I write about my experiences as a speech pathologist working with kids with autism and other special needs here: http://communicationwindow.wordpress.com.

    These wonderful kids deserve all the support they can get!

    February 22, 2011 at 15:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. cpw789

    I applaud a non invasive method that allows early diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders. I love my son as he is but I sorely regret that he was not diagnosed earlier.

    As for those who imagine that our kids are normal and it is all some scam, all I can say is that the folks who urged me to get my son evaluated were women who were taking care of kids in the 60's. I was told more than once that his behavior was not "normal", by these women who raised large broods of their own, taught school, and ran summer camps. My son's behavior stood out to them. So apparently the behavior they observed was not that common in the 60's. My son is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome, which some see as autism light, and many claim it is grossly over diagnosed. However no one would confuse him with "normal" and the other children that I know on the spectrum you would not confuse with neurotypicals. The gap is pretty big.

    I have no idea why there are so many kids like my son. I think we will get the answer by studying groups were there are a large number of children with this disorder.

    February 22, 2011 at 15:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. faisalalsarraf

    this is child abuse

    February 22, 2011 at 16:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      You, sir, are an idiot.

      February 23, 2011 at 14:16 | Report abuse |
  38. Justina

    We need cleaner planet.

    February 22, 2011 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. JG

    Come on folks, let's drop the oversensitive reactions to the word "aspie" ok? I am an aspie and it is quite a common way for us to refer to ourselves and others with the diagnosis. None of us have an issue with and neither should you.

    February 23, 2011 at 06:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Momom

    I have lived for 23 years with my son's severe autism, miracle treatments do not exist. Most of the children that my son went to school with that are on the severe level that he is have been placed in group homes. Parents get old, worn out and just give up. I took my son out of school at the age of 11 because the public schools were horrible. He has made more progress at home in a one on one situation than he would have in a public school setting. All I ever heard from overworked special ed teachers and therapists was what he could not do. My husband's employer is self-insured so they are exempt from this autism treatment. The real miracle in science will be when they can determine in utero if the child has autism.

    February 23, 2011 at 12:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      As a mother of a child with autism and a human being I hope that day never comes. I hope it comes when they can diagnose at 2 months or 3 months but not in the womb. I can only imagine the amount of children that will be aborted if their parents who are uneducated find out they have autism.

      February 23, 2011 at 14:04 | Report abuse |
  41. Momom

    There might also be the possibility of fixing the problem in utero before the child's brain has formed. The perspective of a parent of a young chlld with autism is much different than the parent of an adult child. This is a cruel world and the lack of ability to communicate is the scariest part of autism. Can you imagine not being able to tell someone what is happening to you? I'm araid to put my son in the few programs that are available just because I have seen the people they are hiring. Low wages do not attract high quality workers. There are exceptions, of course.

    February 23, 2011 at 15:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anna

      I work closely with an adult autism group because I want to know what reality awaits my son. My perspective will not change in 10 years. I know far too many people who abort now because of the idea they may not have the "perfect" child. I shudder to think of all my friends who are have autism, whether they be children, adults, verbal, non-verbal, each one is valuable each one deserves life. The Holocaust started with the autistics, how would aborting them before they are here be any different? The idea of fixing them in utero is just as alarming to me to be honest. Teaching them to adapt is one thing, taking away part of how they think and who they are is something completely different. That is why I have no issues learning at 2 months, early intervention, strategies to overcome the barriers I'm fine with, this is a cruel world that looks down on those who are different. But making it so we are all robotic conformists is not a future I wish to be part of. I'm friends with a non-verbal man with autism, he is in his early 30s. His autism may take away his ability to speak, but not his ability to communicate. His ability to find detail in the smallest thing has enabled him to be a fairly famous local photographer. We have focused for too long on the disability, it is time to focus on the ability.

      February 25, 2011 at 17:07 | Report abuse |
  42. Momof2inMA

    This latest research shows such promise! 12 or so years ago, there was very little autism research being done and look how far it's come! Some very interesting comments here so far; from many who have absolutely no clue what it's like to have children on the autism spectrum. Thankfully, the majority of the posts here are from people who understand, live it, work with it, are very compassionate, and willing to share information. I have a 16 year old who was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome only within the last 3 years--this is a result of having a younger daughter who is 12 now, was diagnosed with autism at about age 3. it wasn't until we dove in head first to find out what the hell was causing this, what can we do to help her, was when we realized that there were some similarities in between my son and daughter.
    There are a great deal of resources available regardless of where you live. Autism insurance coverage should be a priority in ANY state that has not passed autism insurance reform!!! If you live in one of those states whose legislators are in bed with the big insurance companies, you need to seek out the resources that so many have already suggested in previous posts. To find resources to help your child(ren), please visit the Family Services section on the Autism Speaks website: http://www.autismspeaks.org/community/family_services/index.php The Resource Guide allows you to click on a US map that brings you to specific resources for your state. (Those of you who provide services to individuals with autism such as SLP's, BCBA's etc–enter your info to be added to the resource guide!) Also, a lot of useful information in general in the Family Services section–tool kits for parents of newly diagnosed children, Asperger's/High Functioning Autism, Transition Toolkit (for those of us with children nearing the age 22 milestone).
    Also, get involved in getting autism insurance legislation passed in your state! http://www.autismvotes.org Get involved! As a Massachusetts resident, I helped as a volunteer to get our insurance bill finally passed and signed into law-it took a couple years but it finally happened! We all need to help end the insurance discrimination.
    Bottom line, autism is exploding–why? We're not sure yet–but what's more important is that we all try to be nice and compassionate to each other when posting about a topic that's so near and dear to many of our hearts!!

    February 23, 2011 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Momom

    I've heard great things about Massachusetts. Try moving to a very conservative state where if you have running water, a roof over your heard and an indoor toilet, you are not considered poor enough for state help. No kidding! Also, the State of Missouri did pass an autism coverage bill, of course a 23 year old is too old for that, but some of the biggest employers in our area are self-insured and are exempt from coverage. Good luck to everyone!

    February 23, 2011 at 21:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Peaze On Earth


    February 24, 2011 at 04:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Peaze On Earth


    February 24, 2011 at 04:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. josh christian



    February 24, 2011 at 18:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. josh christian


    G E T A L IF E

    February 24, 2011 at 18:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Mattie

    Heather, you can call your son an Aspie if you want - these holier-than-thou types infest these sites with their hypocrisy. Lay off - supercilious overachievers – you treat your children as though they're projects.

    May 4, 2011 at 22:02 | Report abuse | Reply
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    Yes there should realize the opportunity to RSS commentary, quite simply, CMS is another on the blog.

    August 26, 2011 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
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